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Full text of "Seraphita ; The alkahest"



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CENTENARY EDITION 
VOLUME XXX. 



SERAPH IT A 
THE ALKAHEST 



I I t^ni/^S 




Jules Girajde 



CoD-vTl&hl i8g6 Vv Roberls Br 



Froccde Goupil 



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" She drew the flower from her bosom and showed it 

to them." 



BO 



5^1^ilo^opl)ical ^tudie^ 



LA COMEDIE HUMAINE 

OF 

HONORE DE BALZAC 

TRANSLATED BY 

KATHARINE PRESCOTT WORMELEY 

SERAPHITA 
THE ALKAHEST 



3llustratfB bg 
JULES GIRARDET 



BOSTON 

LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 



Copyright, 1887, 1889, 1896, 
By Roberts Brothers. 

Copyright, 1916, 
By Little, Brown, and Company. 



AU rights reserved. 



PQ 
lux 

MADAME EVELINE DE HANSKA, 

ir^E COMTESSE RZEWUSKA. 



Madame, — Here is the work which you asked of me. I 
am happy, in thus dedicating it, to offer you a proof of the 
respectful affection you allow me to bear you. If I am re- 
proached for impotence in this attempt to draw from the 
depths of mysticism a book which seeks to give, in the lucid 
transparency of our beautiful language, the luminous poesy 
of the Orient, to you the blame I Did you not command this 
struggle (resembling that of Jacob) by telling me that the 
most imperfect sketch of this Figure, dreamed of by you, as it 
has been by me since childhood, would still be something to 
you? 

Here, then, it is, — that something. Would that this book 
could belong exclusively to noble spirits, preserved like yours 
from worldly pettiness by solitude 1 They would know how 
to oive to it the melodious rhythm that it lacks, which might 
have made it, in the hands of a poet, the glorious epic that 
France still awaits. But from me they must accept it as one 
of those sculptured balustrades, carved by a hand of faith, on 
which the pilgrims lean, in the choir of some glorious chiu-ch, 
to think upon the end of man. 

I am, madame, with respect, 

Your devoted servant, 

DE BALZAC. 



1052738 



CONTENTS. 



^crapfjita. 



PASS 

IXTRODUCTION vii 

I. Seraphitus 1 

11. Seraphita 31 

III. Seraphita-Seraphitus 56 

IV. The Clouds of the Sanctuary .... 114 
V. Farewell 165 

VI. The Path to Heaveii 171 

VII. The Assumption 186 



INTRODUCTION. 



It is highh' probable that " Seraphita " cost its author 
more than anj' other of his intellectual offspring. The 
evidence of this appears in his correspondence. Writing 
to Madame Zulma Carraud in January, 1834, he sajs, 
" Seraphita is a work more severe than any other upon 
the writer." What he thought of it ma}- be gathered 
from another passage in the same letter, in which he 
speaks of it as "a work as much beyond ' Louis Lam- 
bert' as 'Louis Lambert' is be^'ond ' Gaudissart.' " 
As he proceeded with it his labor became more intense. 
In March, 1835, writing to the Duchesse de Castries, 
he savs : "The toil upon this work has been crushing 
and terrible. I have passed, and must still pass, days 
and nights upon it. I compose, decompose, and recom- 
pose it." He did not delude himself as to the kind of 
reception it was likely to encounter : '• In a few da^'S," 
he observes, " all will have been said. Either I shall 
have won fame or the Parisians will have failed to 
understand me. And inasmuch as, with them, mockery 
commonly takes the place of understanding, I can hope 
onh" for a remote and tardy success. Eventually appre- 
ciation will come, and at once here and there. For the 



viii Introduction. 

rest, I think this book will be a favorite with those souls 
that like to lose themselves in the spaces of infinity." 

There is a legend to the effect that Balzac first con- 
ceived the idea embodied in " Seraphita" while contem- 
plating a beautiful sculptured figure of an angel in the 
studio of a friend. It is possible that he himself may 
have made this statement, for he was fond of picturesque 
and dramatic incidents, and might easily have ascribed 
to a trivial occurrence a significance greater than it was 
entitled to. The true genesis of this, perhaps the most 
remarkable and unquestionably the most elevated work 
of fiction ever written, is fortunately not doubtful, for 
the proofs are in the book itself. " Seraphita" is the 
natural crowning flower of that philosophic exposition 
begun in the " Peau de Chagrin," and developed so 
much more fully in " Louis Lambert." The latter work 
moreover may be said both to have adumbrated and 
necessitated " Seraphita ; " and it is proper to state here 
that whoever wishes to grasp the full meaning of this 
book must first read "Louis Lambert," which intro- 
duces and to a considerable extent explains the present 
work. The profound system embodied in the oracular 
fragments which fell from the lips of the rapt young 
sage, and were taken down and preserved by the faith- 
ful and clear-sighted Pauline contains the interpretation 
of the marvellous being Balzac's genius has set in that 
most harmonious and appropriate frame of the Northern 
skies and snow-covered plains, frozen fiords and black, 
ice-clad mountains. Indeed there is nothing more 
striking in this masterpiece than the beauty and ex- 



Introduction. ix 

qnisite taste of its setting. Tlieophile Gautier without 
exaorg:eration styles it " one of the most astonishing 
productions of modern literature ; " and proceeds : 
"Never did Balzac approach, in fact almost seize, the 
ver}' Ideal of Beauty as in this book : the ascent of the 
mountain has in it something ethereal, supernatural, 
luminous, which lifts one above the earth. The onl^' 
colors employed are the blue of heaven and the pure 
white of the snow, with some pearly tints for the 
shadows. We know nothing more ravishing than this 
opening." 

It is all true. Nowhere have Balzac's artistic deli- 
cacy and spiritual subtlety been so victorious!}- em- 
ploj'ed as in the conception and execution of " Sera- 
phita." There is no change in it from lower to higher 
regions. The author launches himself like an eagle 
from a cliff, high upon the bosom of the loftier atmos- 
phere, and his powerful wings sustain him to the end at 
an elevation which enables the reader to separate him- 
self with facilit}' from the existence of vulgar common- 
place, if it does not help him to respire easil}' in air so 
rarefied as to be scarcely adequate to the expansion of 
gross and fleshly lungs. To Balzac himself, whose ver- 
satilit}' and sympathetic range were almost as broad 
and deep as those of Nature, this final flight of his 
philosophical and theosophical exposition was painful 
and laborious. Like Nature he could compass all forms 
of existence, but, like Nature too, he was most at home 
in the free working of tangible matter. In the " Com- 
edie Humaine " he had however undertaken to picture 



X Introduction. 

and to analj'ze life as it existed in his period, and to 
Lim this meant all life, from the lowest to the highest. 
Shakspeare is the only other writer who shows the 
same marvellous breadth of scope ; to whom every state 
and condition of humanity is sympathetic ; who sees 
into and apprehends every form of existence ; who can 
put himself in the place equally of the outcast and the 
saint, — the soul black with sin and shame, and the soul 
white with good deeds and noble aspirations. These 
two, Balzac and Shakspeare, have in common the' 
qualities which most emphatically denote the highest 
form of genius. Among those qualities the precious 
endowment of Intuition ranks perhaps the highest. It 
is this mysterious and magical gift which explains the 
influence upon the human mind of the few great souls 
— Specialists, as Louis Lambert st^'les them — that 
have appeared at long intervals through the ages and 
have left their mark upon generations and centuries. 

Louis Lambert declares that Jesus Christ was a Spe- 
cialist, and the interpretation of this is that he possessed 
the power of striking that chord which vibrates in all 
hearts, of embodying in words those thoughts whose 
expression appeals to the largest audience and awakes 
the deepest and purest emotions. The great Mother of 
us all, from whom we proceed, in whose bosom we 
must lie, has the same characteristics, the same fecundity, 
elasticity, comprehensiveness, and sympathy. Jesus, 
indeed, came at a time when there was little laughter in 
the world. Life was very stern and grim when Rome 
was the mistress of the known habitable globe. It could 



Introduction. xi 

fiardly have been deemed worth living if measured by 
modern gauges. As in the time of Gautama Buddha, five 
centuries before, the central problem was the wretched- 
ness of existence. "We who, surrounded bv the comforts 
and luxuries of the nineteenth century, stand perplexed 
at the dark and gloomy views which those old races 
seem to have held in so matter-of-course a wa\', fail 
sufficiently to realize the actual pressure of misery upon 
the great majority of human beings at those periods. 
In sad truth, life was to them a painful puzzle. They 
were not, like us, chiefl}' occupied in determining how 
best to employ it and derive from it the greatest happi- 
ness or usefulness. Most of them were born into con- 
ditions escape from which was hopeless and continuance 
in which was intolerable. The}- were helpless and the}' 
suflcred. What wonder if the}' looked bewildered to 
the unanswering sky, questioned the dumb face of 
Nature, and lost themselves in sombre speculations as 
to the why and wherefore of their existence, and the 
causes of the seemingly purposeless chain of being. To 
them deliverance from incarnation was the first requisite 
of a rational gospel ; and this deliverance was oflTered, 
though in different ways, by the two great Teachers 
whose wisdom and promises have been respectively the 
Light of Asia and of Christendom. 

To understand ' ' Seraphita " it is necessary to take a 
somewhat wide preliminary survey. We must begin by 
fixing in our minds the scheme of evolution which it is 
intended to illustrate and to carry to its farthest mun- 
dane development, while projecting the vision even 



xii Introduction. 

be} ond this point, and foreshadowing the outlines of a 
higher and an incorporeal state of existence. Human 
destin}', according to this theory, is a painful course of 
elevation and emancipation ; a working out of what we 
call Matter into what we call Spirit, — but which really 
is merely different conditions of one primal substance. 
There are three worlds : the Material, the Spiritual, and 
the Divine. These three worlds must be traversed in 
turn by the souls of men, which in these journeyings 
must pass through three stages, namely the Instinctive, 
the Abstractive, and the Specialist. Now the soul is 
guided on its way and raised gradually by the influence 
of Love. First, Self-Love stimulates and urges it 
onward and upward until the clogging stagnation of 
Savager}' is escaped, and progress toward Barbarism 
and thence to what is now termed Civilization, is se- 
cured. Second, the love of others. Altruism, supersedes 
Self-Love in the most advanced men and women, and 
then the time is ripe for the establishment of those great 
religions which in their infancj^, when the central doc- 
trine is pure and fresh and full of magnetism, sways 
peoples and countries so powerfully, and changes the 
direction of the age. It is Altruism which has produced 
all the highest and noblest works the human race pos- 
sesses to-day. It is that which is at the root of Duty, 
Honor, Faithfulness, Loyalty, Self-Sacrifice. It did not 
indeed have to be invented anew for modern humanity 
as the lost arts in many cases have been, for Altruism 
was never dead. But for long ages it was overlooked 
by man, for its hiding-place was then in the breast of 



Introduction. xiii 

"Woman, whose tender heart served as tlie Shechinah 
— the SanctuaiT of exiled Unselfish Love. 

Woman practised the long- forgotten virtue while 
suffering in silence the tyrannj- to which her constitu- 
tional weakness condemned her. From the beginning: 
she has been the chief conservator of this indispensable 
aid to the higher life. If she has not succeeded in 
manifesting so strikingl}- as advanced men the service- 
ableness of Altruism to material progress, it is because 
the repression from which she suffered through so pro- 
tracted a period stunted her intellectual growth, and 
thus rendered her deficient in the capacity to apply 
practically what she cultivated almost instinctively'. 
On the other hand, her aptitude was greater in the 
direction of the Divine. There her facility in renuncia- 
tion assisted her greatly. Her experience in sorrow 
and self-sacrifice through daily life, her culture in the 
philosophy of patient endurance, her habit of expending 
herself upon others, all fitted her in an especial way for 
ascent towards those lofty heights of emotion, aspira- 
tion, and ecstasy, which are as a rule known only by 
name to men. It is b}' the Love of God — the Divine 
Love — that the soul must be guided and supported in 
its passage through the third sphere, which is called the 
Divine World ; and to this cult the woman-nature ad- 
dresses itself with less reluctance and repugnance than 
the masculine spirit, so deepl}' attached to material 
interests, so unaccustomed to what seem the cold 
abstractions of divinit}'. As the Abstractive condition 
prevails more and more it carries with it a scepticism 



xiv Introduction. 

which to the timid spectator appears to threaten Reli- 
gion with total extinction ; and as the tide of materi- 
alism flows ever deeper and wider the cult of the 
Supreme, of the Unmanifest, of the Spiritual generally, 
is maintained by women almost single-handed. The 
French Revolution might have banished Faith from 
the soil of France had not the women refused to aban- 
don their altars. Even to-day, in the same country, 
the spiritual elements of its civilization are being sup- 
plied mainly by the same humble believers in the Over- 
Soul. As to the men, materialism has smothered their 
higher feelings, and caused them for the time to imagine 
that they are or can be content with a world from which 
spirituality is excluded. 

The function of the Specialist, following Balzac's 
theosophy, is to stimulate and develop the higher cul- 
ture while working out his own enfranchisement. When 
the world has proceeded so far upon the path of purely 
material evolution as to threaten a fatally one-sided 
outcome, one of these advanced souls is incarnated and 
lifts the divine standard anew. The very fact of the 
close commixture between Spirit and Matter renders it 
impossible that the inclination and tendency toward 
the loftier mysteries of life should ever be wholly lost, 
and when the wave of materialism seems at its height 
the reaction is nearest and the spirit of the age is best 
prepared for fresh impregnation by the Logos. No 
more poetical or striking picture of one of these spirit- 
ual transmutations can be found than that which the 
late Matthew Arnold embodied in " Obermann once 



Introduction. xv 

More." This was the world of ''some two thousand 
years " since : 

" Like ours it looked in outward air, 
Its head was clear and true, 
Sumptuous its clothing, rich its fare, 
No pause its action knew ; 

" Stout was its arm, each thew and bone 
Seemed puissant and alive, 
But, ah! its heart, its heart was stone, 
And so it could not thrive ! 

•' On that hard Pagan world disgust 
And secret loathing fell; 
Deep weariness and sated lust 
Made human life a hell. 

" In his cool hall, with haggard eyes, 
The Roman noble lay ; 
He drove abroad, in furious guise, 
Along the Appian way. 

" He made a feast, drank fierce and fast, 
And crowned his hair with flowers ; 
No easier nor no quicker passed 
The impracticable hours. 

" The brooding East with awe beheld 
Her impious younger world , 
The Roman tempest swelled and swelled, 
And on her head was hurled. 

" The East bowed low before the blast 
In patient, deep disdain; 
She let the legions thunder past, 
And phinged in thought again. 



xvi Introduction. 

'* So well she mused, a morning broke 
Across her spirit gray ; 
A conquering, new-born joy awoke 
And filled her life with day. 

" ' Poor world,' she cried, ' so deep accurst, 
That runn'st from pole to pole 
To seek a draught to slake thy thirst, — 
Go, seek it in thy soul ! ' 

" She heard it, the victorious West, 
In crown and sword arrayed, 
She felt the void which mined her breast, 
She shivered and obeyed. 

" She veiled her eagles, snapped her sword, 
And laid her sceptre down; 
Her stately purple she abhorred, 
And her imperial crown. 

" Lust of the eye and pride of life 
She left it all behind. 
And hurried, torn with inward strife. 
The wilderness to find. 

" Tears washed the trouble from her face I 
She changed into a child ! 
'Mid weeds and wrecks she stood, — a place 
Of ruin, — but she smiled! " 

The poet intimates that the influences brought by 
Christianity are now exhausted, that they have ceased 
to operate because faith is dead. Yet he is not without 
hope for the future. Human expectation, raised in 
modern times to great heights by the promise of the 



Introduction. xvii 

French Revolution, has indeed been sadly disappointed. 

Nevertheless, 

" The world's great order dawns in sheen 
After long darkness rude, 
Divinelier imaged, clearer seen. 
With happier zeal pursued." 

Despite all premature confidence and too sanguine 
anticipation, there is warrant for the inspiration which 
leads men to labor for the attainment of 

" One common wave of thought and joy 
Lifting mankind again ! " 

When the Hour arrives the Man will appear. That 
is the teaching of history and that is the doctrine of 
the sages. The darkest moments are those which pre- 
cede the dawn, and it is at what seems the ver}' point 
of desperation that relief is given. There is indeed 
nothing occult in this view. It is founded upon ob- 
servation and experience. The m5'ster3^ lies in the 
causes of these opportune and portentous events : in 
the evolution of the Avatars who in turn appear to 
change a world's course and to rekindle the pure flame 
of Religion and Spirituality. Balzac, however, has not 
encumbered his subtle and profound study, as an in- 
ferior artist would have been apt to do, by showing the 
Specialist in the discharge of his function of Deliverer. 
His purpose was to exhibit and analyze, as far as pos- 
sible, that rare and precious form of existence in which 
the progress of the spirit toward the Divine has been 
carried so far as to render continued toleration of earthly 



xviii Introduction. 

life impossible. Seraphita is the Specialist upon whom 
no world-mission has been laid ; a final efRorescence of 
long-cultivated spiritualitj^ ; the last, most delicate and 
fragile link between Mortality and Immortality. In the 
androgynous symbolism under which Seraphita is pre- 
sented, the author has embodied an archaic and profound 
doctrine. The male and female qualities and character- 
istics are so manifestly complementary that human 
thought at a comparatively early stage arrived at the 
idea of the original union of the sexes in one relativel}' 
perfect and self-sufficient being. In the Divine World, 
according to Swedenborg, such a union consummates 
the attachment of those souls which during their cor- 
poreal life have been in complete sympathy. The Angel 
of Love and the Angel of Wisdom combine to form a 
single being which possesses both their qualities. 

To the theory of spiritual evolution taught by Swe- 
denborg the doctrine of metempsychosis, or as it is more 
commonly termed at present, the doctrine of re-incar- 
nation, is necessary. This doctrine may be traced to 
a remote antiquity, and while it is still comparatively 
unfamiliar to the Western world, it has for ages been 
at the very foundation of all Eastern religion and phi- 
losophy. The Rev. William R. Alger, in his "Critical 
History of the Doctrine of a Future Life," observes 
upon this subject: "No other doctrine has exerted so 
extensive, controlling, and permanent an influence 
upon mankind as that of the metempsychosis, — the 
notion that when the soul leaves the body it is born 
anew in another bodj', its rank, character, circum- 



Introduction. xix 

stances, and experience in each successive existence 
depending on its qualities, deeds, and attainments in 
its preceding lives. Such a theorj*, well matured, bore 
unresisted sway through the great Eastern world long 
before Moses slept in his little ark of bulrushes on the 
shore of the Eg3ptian river ; Alexander the Great gazed 
with amazement on the self-immolation by fire to which 
it inspired the Gymnosophists ; Caesar found its tenets 
propagated among the Gauls beyond the Rubicon ; 
and at this hour it reigns despotic, as the learned 
and travelled Professor of Sanscrit at Oxford tells us, 
' without any sign of decrepitude or deca}-, over the 
Burman, Chinese, Tartar, Tibetan, and Indian nations, 
including at least six hundred and fifty millions of 
mankind.' There is abundant evidence to prove that 
this scheme of thought prevailed at a very earl}' period 
among the Egyptians, all classes and sects of the 
Hindus, the Persian disciples of the Magi, and the 
Druids, and, in a later age, among the Greeks and 
Romans as represented by Musseus, P^'thagoras, Plato, 
Plotinus, Macrobius, Ovid, and many others. It was 
generally adopted by the Jews from the time of the 
Babylonian captivity. Traces of it have been discov- 
ered among the ancient Scj'thians, the African tribes, 
some of the Pacific Islanders, and various aboriginal 
nations both of North and of South America." 

In fact there is scarcely a division of the human 
family, advanced at all beyond the stage of savagery, 
in which either the germs of this theory or the fully 
developed belief may not be discovered. The form in 



XX. Introduction. 

which it has been held differs. Thus the Platonists 
and Pythagoreans supposed that human souls might 
inhabit the bodies of animals, birds, etc. The Mani- 
cheans went further, and taught that such spirits might 
be reborn in vegetable forms ; and some have even 
imagined that sin and degradation could condemn hu- 
man souls to imprisonment in rocks, stones, or the 
dust of the field. The Talmudists, the teachers of 
Oriental esotericism, and generally speaking the older 
and more authoritative exponents of the wisdom- 
religion, maintained that human souls transmigrated 
through human bodies alone, rising, step by step, to 
higher planes. A very convenient collection of opiuions 
upon re-incarnation has lateU' been published by Mr. 
E. D. Walker, and this work may be commended to 
those who desire to realize something of the extent to 
which the doctrine has been held both in the past and 
the present. By abundant quotations Mr. Walker 
shows, not only that it was a cardinal tenet of the 
so-called Pagan religions, but that many of the early 
Christians — notably Origen — maintained it ; while the 
array of modern philosophers, poets, men of science, and 
theologians who have even in recent times received it is 
well calculated to give pause to reflective minds. Such 
names as Kant, Schelling, Leibnitz, Schopenhauer, 
Bruno, Herder, Lessing, Goethe, Boehme, Fichte, and 
others, are found in the list, and even the sceptical 
Hume, in his essay on the Immortality of the Soul, 
observes: "The metempsychosis is therefore the only 
©ystem of this kind that philosophy- can hearken to." 



Introduction. xxi 

Schopenhauer declares that " the belief in nietem- 
ps^xhosis presents itself as the natural conviction of 
man, whenever he reflects at all in an unprejudiced 
manner. It would reall}' be that which Kant falsely 
asserts of his three pretended Ideas of the reason, a 
philosopheme natural to human reason, which proceeds 
from its forms ; and when it is not found it must have 
been displaced by positive religious doctrines coming 
from a different source. I have also remarked that it is 
at once obvious to everj' one who hears of it for the first 
time." The same writer observes further: " In Chris- 
tianity, however, the doctrine of original sin, that is, 
the doctrine of punishment for the sins of another in- 
dividual, has taken the place of the transmigration of 
souls and the expiation in this way of all the sins com- 
mitted in an earlier life. Both identify, and that with 
a moral tendency, the existing man with one who has 
existed before ; the transmigration of souls does so 
directly, original sin indirectly." This venerable doc- 
trine, proceding in an unbroken line from the pre-Vedic 
period to the present time, and held even now by the 
larger moiety of the earth's inhabitants, is, as Schopen- 
hauer remarks, a natural belief; for it is that which 
most rationally and plausibly accounts for the most 
perplexing mysteries of existence. As developed by 
the subtle Hindu intellect it is full of attraction and 
persuasion to unprejudiced minds, and when the so- 
called law of Karma is applied to it, the resulting 
scheme may well seem to embrace and explain the 
most formidable considerations and objections. 



xxii Introduction. 

Schopenhauer, it is true, raises the objection that in 
the Buddhist (or Hindu) doctrine of metempsychosis the 
discontinuousness of memory between re-births prac- 
ticalk renders the process palingenesis and not metem- 
psychosis. The German philosopher, however, but 
imperfectly apprehended the doctrine which he adapted 
so closely; for his substitution of the "will to live" 
for ' ' Karma " is really little more than a change of 
terminology, his theory of the functions of Will being 
at bottom a Germanization of the law of Karma. Had 
he lived to stud}' the later developments of Asiatic 
philosoph}' and metaphysics, it cannot be doubted that 
so open and clear an intelligence would have recognized 
the force of those deeper implications which round out 
and give consistenc}- and completeness to the Oriental 
scheme of thought, and dissipate the surface difficulties 
of the subject. The advances made recently in Western 
psychology have contributed to the growth of a better 
understanding on many points, and among the most 
suggestive and illuminating studies ma}' be cited those 
of Ribot on disease of the memory, and on double and 
other abnormal conditions of personality. The per- 
sistence of memory was held to be indispensable to a 
true metempsychosis by Schopenhauer because he had 
no conception of the refinements of Hindu speculation, 
which postulate the deathless principle of man as a 
congeries of separable parts, to the perishable among 
which physical recollection belongs. The Hindu posits, 
however, an undying psychical memory, which is incog- 
nizable by the incarnate soul, but which, nevertheless, 



Introduction. xxiii 

stores up ever}- event of the numerous transmigrations 
through which it passes, to bring the whole series into 
the consciousness of the persistent spirit when it has 
accomplished all its educational changes, and has at- 
tained an elevation which enables it full}' to comprehend 
itself and its evolution. 

Science, nay, common experience and observation, 
throw some hght upon this difficult subject. The 
phenomena of normal sleep serve to show how the 
persistence of ph3'sical life is maintained notwithstand- 
ing periodical, frequent, and continuous lapses of con- 
sciousness. The rarer phenomena of double personality, 
so carefully studied b}- Charcot, Azam, Biuet, Ribot, 
Liegois, and others, emphasize the lessons of everj'-day 
experience in this direction. The remarkable cases in 
which, memor}- having been lost for considerable periods 
of time, it has been recovered as suddenh- as it had 
disappeared, point out the lines of reasoning upon which 
the apparent change of personalit}' maj' be reconciled 
with latent persistence and continuation of individu- 
ality. And indeed Schopenhauer might have perceived 
that the action of the Hindu law of Karma would be 
futile and purposeless if, as he concluded, each re-birth 
involved, to all practical intents, the creation of a new 
person. For to what end should the results of acts 
done in a former life follow and modif}' the succeeding 
incarnation if the two existences had no connection? 
Schopenhauer's misapprehension on this point was 
indeed far-reaching in its effect ; for it led him to 
postulate a contradiction in terms, — an uuoonscious 



xxiv Introduction. 

Will-force, namely. Volition implies consciousness, 
and unconscious volition is unthinkable, a mere ar- 
rangement of words representing no comprehensible 
idea. 

Swedenborg, with all his crudities and anthropo- 
morphic fancies, was far more logical in his theory- of 
metempsychosis, which is in fact in many particulars 
accordant with the Hindu doctrine. Re-incarnation, 
according to the Swedish Sage, is a process whereby- the 
evolution of the higher faculties is made possible. In 
common with many of the most profound and lucid 
thinkers, he perceived the inadequacy of a single life- 
time to the work of ps^-chical evolution, and he adopted, 
or attained b}- independent or intuitional methods, the 
Oriental explanation of that lapse of consciousness 
which Tennyson refers to in the lines : — 

" Or, if through lower lives I came, 
Though all experience past became 
Consolidate in mind and frame, 

" I might forget my weaker lot ; 
For is not our first year forgot ? 
The haunts of memory echo not. 

" Some draught of Lethe doth await 
As old mythologies relate, 
The slipping through from state to state." 

As with the Hindus, he held that the break in memory 
which signalized the completion of a ph^'sical existence 
was itself a physical phenomenon ; but that the psjx-hical 
processes of evolution went on unaffected by the changes 



Introduction. xxv 

of death and re-birth, and that among these processes 
was the transmission, across the gap caused by death, 
of the quaUties and tendencies and spiritual attainments 
belonging to the individual undergoing re-incarnation. 
In Oriental terminology Swedenborg's embryo Angels 
were the products of continued operation of good 
Karma. They represented the best results of human 
aspiration faithfully maintained until the upward yearn- 
ing had destroyed the strong attachments to earth and 
qualified the spirit to breathe the rarefied atmosphere of 
the Divine World. In this evolutionary process, more- 
over, the highest examples of human development were 
reached, and in these a type was attained which ex- 
hibited the ideal of humanity as it was or as it might 
have been immediately after the descent of Spirit into 
Matter, and before that Fall which in the symbolism 
of the occultists signifies the victory of Materialism over 
Spirituality, the beginning of that long course of mun- 
dane and gross development which men call civiliza- 
tion, and which has blinded them, by its material gains, 
to the extent of the divergence of the race from its only 
permanent and worthy interests. 

Seraphita was conceived by Balzac in a moment of 
supreme insight and inspiration, to embody Sweden- 
borg's noblest ideas. Not that Swedenborg can be 
regarded as the originator of the theory which he ex- 
panded and modified and stamped with his own in- 
dividuality and his own imperfectly developed spiritual 
perceptions. For it must be admitted by all candid 
Btudents of the Seer that his supposed revelations are 



XX vi Introduction. 

often clogged and overlaid with the most palpable 
anthropomorphism ; that he derives his notions of celes- 
tial phenomena and existences from his personal envi- 
ronment with a curious childish simplicitj' at times ; 
that he exhibits in many waj-s his inadequac}^ as the 
vehicle of supra-mundane communications ; and his in- 
ability, partly through ph3'sical, partly through intel- 
lectual conditions, to transmit with fidelity or even to 
observe with accuracy that which was presented to his 
internal vision. Indeed it may be said that whoever 
wishes to enjoy the beauties which undoubtedly subsist 
in his writings must be prepared to submit them to 
a certain analytic and refining process. For they may 
be likened to the great world-religions, which, issuing 
clearly and nobly from their sources, have in time 
become discolored and polluted and changed sometimes 
into quite unsavory- and ignoble streams b}' the opera- 
tion upon them, during long periods, of all the gross- 
ness, perversity, materialism, selfishness, mendacity, 
and iniquity which men bring to the amelioration of 
their condition and the improvement of the creeds upon 
which the}' profess to rel}' for the securitj' of their future 
well-being. Not to carry the parallel too far, it should 
be distinctly stated that Swedenborg assuredly infused 
no elements of evil into his representations and interpre- 
tations. He erred solely through temperament, and it 
may be surmised that the first period of his life, which 
was devoted to stud}- in the phj-sical sciences, strength- 
ened in him that unconscious tendency to materialize 
spiritual things which is characteristic of his writino:s, 



Introduction. xxvii 

and which imparts to much of his description of the 
higher spheres so strange and infelicitous an atmosphere 
of earthly commonplace. 

To penetrate to the heart of his subject it is therefore 
necessary to clear awaj' a good deal of obstructive and 
non-essential matter. Had the Sage been a poet he 
would certainly have written more interestingly, and 
it may even be thought perhaps, more accurately, con- 
cerning many minor details. But the broad outlines, 
the firm framework of his system, remain entirely un- 
affected by his lack of imagination and grace of fancy ; 
and it is upon the body of doctrine itself, and not upon 
the narrative powers of the Seer, that his reputation 
and the vitalit}' of his teaching must rest. Here there 
is no defect of nobility, no sign of narrowness, no sub- 
servience to inherited beliefs, no undue elevation of 
sj'mbolic or ceremonial hypotheses. From the volu- 
minous theological library given out by him during his 
life and added to hy posthumous publications, may be 
obtained a perfectly harmonious, essentially lofty, and 
intellectually attractive religious scheme and cosmo- 
logical theory, though the latter is less easil.y cleared 
from its impediments than the former. It would not 
be possible, even were it desirable, to indicate more 
than the outlines of this s^'stem here. Balzac himself 
has presented all that he thought necessary to the com- 
prehension of " Seraphita," in the following pages, and 
it is the purpose of this introduction principally to 
supply explanations which he omitted, perhaps because, 
coming fresh from mystical and occult studies which had 



xxviii Introduction. 

filled his mind to saturation, he took too much for 
granted the intellectual preparation of his readers. 

One interesting consideration related to the pecu- 
liarities of Swedenborg's writings remains to be pointed 
out, and it has a wide bearing. All who are sufflcienth' 
interested in spiritual things to have examined what 
may be called the literature of revelation, have prob- 
abl}- been perplexed and possibl}'^ discouraged, by the 
innumerable contradictions and discrepancies which 
are apparent in this branch of mysticism. Relations 
purporting to embodj' truthful presentations of the 
unseen universe, and believed by the Seers to be faith- 
ful records of true visions, offer, when compared, ap- 
parently hopeless and inexplicable divergencies. One 
consequence of this striking lack of harmony and con- 
sistency has natural!}' been to reinforce scejiticism, and 
to give ground for the facile explanation of all such 
representations upon the theory of hallucination or dis- 
ordered imagination. Such as are content with that 
explanation cannot be expected to make an}' farther 
inquiry- into the subject ; and this is the case with the 
majoritj', who regard with concealed or open dissatis- 
faction any hj'pothesis which b}' broadening the area of 
existence threatens to increase its responsibilities and 
extend its obligations. On the other hand, there will 
always be a considerable minority' the character of 
whose minds leads them to explore the unknown, and 
the dominant influence of whose spiritual elements com- 
pels them to accept the possibilitj- of a higher life be- 
yond the grave, and under conditions difficult alike of 



Introduction. 



XXIX 



conception and comprehension. These inquirers are 
aware that according to analogy the problem referred 
to is not incapable of solution. Even in purely- material 
life, for example, observation is invariably colored and 
modified by the personality of the observer. Every 
court of justice is a perpetual reminder of this. Human 
evidence concerning the most ordinary matters differs 
radically according to the character of the witnesses. 
Six men seeing the same thing will each give a differ- 
ent account of it, and they will rarely be found in 
agreement even as to essentials. Put six men into new 
and strange conditions, let them witness something the 
like of which none of them has ever seen before, and 
which is in itself seemingly opposed to all their expe- 
rience, and we must expect still more divergent and 
irreconcilable reports. In such a case the evidence 
would be practically of no use in forming a conclusion. 

In the researches by which men have sought to ob- 
tain knowledge of the supra-mundane the inherent diffi- 
culties must necessarily be very much greater. Supposing, 
for the purpose of the argument, that it is possible for cer- 
tain peculiarly spiritual persons, by mental and physical 
discipline and preparation, or by natural aptitude, to pene- 
trate behind the veil of Matter and obtain glimpses into 
the- region of Spirit, it is nevertheless not credible that 
such persons should, while in the body, be capable either 
c»f clearly seeing or correctly repeating what they have 
seen. For however their spiritual perception may have 
been strengthened and clarified, it is obvious that its 
vehicle is ill adapted to the work of observation in so 



xxxii Introduction. 

qualified to do much more harm than good by dissemi- 
nating views which perhaps his personal character in- 
vests with a factitious authorit}'. Nevertheless, the 
possibility- of a certain insight to the phenomena of 
other conditions of existence is unaffected b}- these 
considerations, which after all only go to show the 
urgent need of caution both in essaying such excursions 
into the supra-mundane, and in dealing with the repre- 
sentations subsequently offered concerning discoveries 
made in them. It is perhaps scarcely necessar3' to point 
out that the novelist who undertakes such a theme ae 
that of "Seraphita" must work under unfamiliar condi- 
tions. He is not free to give the reins to his imagina- 
tion. He must be careful to maintain communication 
with his base, to use a military figure. He cannot em- 
plo3' machinery wholly unknown to his public, but must 
confine his efforts to embellishing and expanding those 
popular conceptions of spiritual phenomena reference 
to which is readil}' understood, even though the prevail- 
ing ideas maj^ be poor, or grotesque, or gross. In 
" Seraphita" Balzac has followed this course with the 
success to have been expected from the versatility and 
subtlety of his genius. He has produced the most lofty 
and beautiful spiritual fiction to be found in literature. 

Brief reference has been made alread}' to a striking 
peculiarit}' in the portrait of Seraphita, — the fact, 
namely, that to Minna she conveys the impression of 
masculinit}' and to "Wilfrid that of womanhood. So 
strange a confusion of sex, or perhaps it would be more 
exact to say so strange a dualism, certainly required 



Introduction. xxxiii 

more explanation than Balzac has seen fit to offer ; and 
as the ideas involved relate to very ancient and recon- 
dite doctrines, it is necessary to treat the subject some- 
what fully. Seraphita is intended to typify the nearest 
approach to physical and psychical perfection possible 
under the limitations of human existence. The whole 
narrative of her birth and training indicates this. Her 
parents are devout followers of Swedenborg, to whom 
they are related. There is much more of mystical 
spiritualit}' than of material relations about their union 
and married life. In fact, the chief aim and end of both 
their lives seems to have been the securing of the proper 
conditions for the generation of a being who should be 
so pure and so in harmony with celestial things from 
her birth as to be capable of accomplishing in one incar- 
nation the transition from the mortal to the divine. 
Seraphita as here represented offers curious analogies 
with Oriental theosophy. One might say that in Eastern 
terminology she was born to Arhatship ; and that though 
for her, as for all merely human beings, temptation and 
trial were unavoidable, her triumph was no less certain 
than that which Gotama Buddha attained to as the cul- 
mination of his vigil under the Bodhi tree. But the North- 
ern ideal of human perfection embraced some conceptions 
which were less congenial to the Oriental intellect. It is 
one of the central merits of Christianity that it did much 
to recover for Woman the position too long denied her in 
the psychical scheme. Buddha indeed went far beyond 
his Asiatic predecessors in this direction. He admitted 
women to all the spiritual gains open to men, with one 



xxxiv Introduction. 

exception. Xo woman could be a Buddha, according 
to him, though an}' woman might elevate herself to 
Arhatship. Christianity raised woman to the highest 
celestial dignities, and if in process of time superstition 
and bigotry warped and travestied the original pure 
symbolism and the earh' doctrines of the creed, much 
solid good remained from the mere familiarizing of 
men's minds with the higher view of womanly excel- 
lences and capacities. 

In the esoteric creeds of many peoples, but chiefly 
those of European habitat, the place of Woman has for 
ages been, not merelj* among the highest, but literally 
the highest. She symbolized the Soul in the beautiful 
mj'th of Ps3'che. She was the spiritual element in 
humanity, lacking union with which mankind must be 
chained forever to the material, and waste his energies 
in struggles and labors which, even when most suc- 
cessful, onl}' carried him farther from the true purpose 
of life., and rendered emancipation from carnal con- 
ditions more tedious and difficult. Something of this 
venerable doctrine may be gathered from the following 
citations, which occur in that beautifully written but 
mystical work called " The Perfect Way." Speaking of 
the " substance of existence," the authors say : " As 
Living Substance, God is One, As Life and Sub- 
stance, God is Twain. He is the Life, and She is 
the Substance. And to speak of Her is to speak of 
Woman in her supremest mode. She is not ' Nature ; ' 
Nature is the manifestation of the qualities and prop- 
erties with which, under suflFusion of the Life and Spirits 



Introduction. xxxv 

of God, Substance is endowed. She is not Matter, 
but is the potential essence of Matter. She is not 
Space, but is the within of Space, its fourth and 
original dimension, that from which all proceed, the 
containing element of Deity, and of which Space is 
the manifestation. As original Substance, the sub- 
stance of all other substance. She underUes that whereof 
all things are made ; and, like life and mind, is inte- 
rior, m3'stical, spiritual, and discernible only when 
manifested in operation." The elucidation of the femi- 
nine principle is carried much further, and the whole 
passage will repay study, for it throws new light upon 
the mythologies and occult systems of many ages and 
peoples, and tends to exhibit a continuity of thought 
and a unity of conception regarding fundamentals, 
such as few would suspect who examine these ques- 
tions hastily or without due preparation. The follow- 
ing passage relates to the concrete question in hand 
more directly: "As on the plane physical, man is not 
Man, — but only Bo}-, rude, froward, and solicitous 
only to exert and exhibit his strength, — until the time 
comes for him to recognize, appreciate, and appro- 
priate Her as the woman ; so on the plane spiritual, 
man is not Man, — but only Materialist, having all 
the deficiencies, intellectual and moral, the term im- 
plies, until the time comes for him to recognize, appre- 
ciate, and appropriate Her as the Soul, and counting 
Her as his better half, to renounce his own exclusively 
centrifugal impulsions, and yield to her centripetal at- 
tractions. Doing this with all his heart, he finds that 



xxxvi Introduction. 

she makes him in the highest sense, Man. For, adding 
to his intellect Her intuition, she endows him with that 
true manhood, the manhood of Mind. Thus, by Her 
aid obtaining cognition of substance, and from the 
phenomenal fact ascending to the essential idea, he 
weds understanding to knowledge, and attains to cer- 
titude of truth, completing thereby the sj^stem of his 
thought." 

In rejecting, as the present age has virtualh' done, the 
soul and her intuition, " man excludes from the system 
of his humanity the ver}' idea of woman, and renounces 
his proper manhood." This it is which determines the 
wholl}^ materialistic bent of modern physical science, 
and the coarse, callous, and corrupt tendencies which, 
as the centur3' declines to its close, appear to charac- 
terize the prevailing civilization more strongl}*, and to 
emphasize with greater distinctness even the faintest 
reactionary movements and impulses. Balzac, in draw- 
ing Seraphita, was wholly true to the best received 
occult doctrine in endowing her with duality of sexual 
attributes, and the subtletj^ of his delineatioh is espe- 
cially exhibited in the dominance of her womanly side. 
For though Minna is apparently misled by the mas- 
culine vigor and the self-contained resolution of her 
companion, the reader is permitted to see clearl}^ enough 
that the impression which Seraphita produces upon 
Wilfrid is not only b}' far the stronger but b}' far the 
most natural ; and this impression is that which the 
highest t^'pe of womanliood can alone create. But there 
is another s3'mbol in this phase of Seraphita's nature. 



Introduction. xxxvii 

For it is held that in truth and fact the duahsm exas:- 
gerated for the sake of effect in her case is inherent in 
all human beings ; that, to quote the same work once 
more, '• whatever the sex of the person, ph^sicalh', 
each individual is a dualism, consisting of exterior and 
interior, manifested personalit}' and essential individu- 
ality, body and soul, which are to each other masculine 
and feminine, man and woman ; he the without, she the 
within. And all that the woman, on the planes physi- 
cal and social is to the man, that she is also on the 
planes intellectual and spiritual. For, as Soul and 
Intuition of Spirit, she withdraws him, phj'sicall}' and 
mentally, from dissipation and perdition in the outer 
and material ; and by centralizing and substantializing 
hrm redeems and crowns him, — from a phantom con- 
verting him into an entit}*, from a mortal into an im- 
mortal, from a man into a god." For, without Love,\\\ 
Force can work only evil. It is the union of these two 
from which springs true progress, — the progress which 
overlooks the material and plants discovering feet in 
the permanent region of the spiritual. Woman is the 
symbol and the vehicle of the Divine Life. She is the 
one stable principle of human evolution, — the principle 
without which man's development would be in the line 
of decomposition instead of toward a higher vitality ; 
his restless energies would wear themselves away in 
making the conditions of his existence more and more 
impossible of endurance. And this is the doctrine of all 
Hermetic Scriptures, including tlie Book of Genesis. 
It is to be observed that Balzac does not follow 



xxxviii Introduction. 

Swedenborg closely here. He goes rather to the 
sources of esoteric doctrine from which all students 
of occultism, from the earliest recorded times, have 
drawn their principles and the guiding outlines of their 
schemes of thought. It is also deserving of notice 
that however the personal element ma}" and does 
alter and not infrequently disguise or pervert the de- 
tails of such teachings, there is in the general form and 
character of them a certain harmony and close affinitj* 
which indicate community of origin ; and as in the 
genesis of language philologists argue from root like- 
nesses affiliation of several tongues which time has 
separated widely, with one mother tongue lost perhaps 
in the mists of antiquit}', so from these indications of 
a common focus of knowledge may be inferred the pre- 
existence of such a spring and source ; and not less 
rationall}' may be assumed in it a purity and approxi- 
mation to absolute truth superior to the representations 
which have descended through defective vehicles, ex- 
posed to all the sophisticating influence of time and 
ignorance and materialism. Swedenborg was an agent 
in some respects peculiarly susceptible to these distort- 
ing influences. It does not appear that he at any time 
rose to the height of spiritual perception attained in 
the thoughts last quoted. Yet he recognized somewhat 
of the importance of the Womanhead in spiritual ex- 
istence, and though he did not escape from the narrow 
and material views of Woman common to his age, he 
brought from his visions a reflection of the truth 
too exalted to be understood b}' his contemporaries. 



Introduction. xxxix 

"Man," he ssiys in one place, "is born an under- 
standing, and woman a love." And speaking again of 
marriage he saj-s : "The wife cannot enter into the 
proper duties of the man ; nor the man, on the other hand, 
into the proper duties of the wife ; because the}' differ, 
as wisdom and its love, or thought and its affection, or 
understanding and its will. In the proper duties of 
men the understanding, thought, and wisdom act the 
chief part ; but in the proper dut ies of wives the jwill, 
affection, and love act the chief part." He recognizes 
also the necessit}' of harmonious conjunctions between 
the two natures to make the perfect man ; but he does 
not realize the superior importance, the higher spiritu- 
ality, of the woman's nature. Here Balzac's knowledge, 
intuitive or acquired, surpasses that of the teacher whose 
doctrine he has undertaken to illustrate, and in his con- 
ception of Seraphita he rises to the level of the loftiest 
mj'stical doctrine to which human faculty has ever 
attained. 

Ooethe, like Balzac, penetrated to the heart_of_the 



vjrl 



gre at problem in the last sce ngjof thp {^^pnnfj_|jfljf, of 
"Faust." His Ewig-Weibliche is the divine element 
which Woman both embodies and typifies, and to th« 
purifying and stimulating emanations from which Man 
is indebted for whatever degree of enfranchisement 
from the clogging embraces of materialism he is en- 
abled to accomplish. This is the force which zieht uns 
hinan, which lifts us toward higher spheres and in- 
spired us with nobler aims ; which on the physical plane 
keeps before our dull and earth-drawn eyes constant 



xl Introduction. 

examples of self-sacrifice, altruism, patience, compas- 
sion, and love stronger than death ; which is most 
effective in subduing and extirpating the sordid animal 
tendencies and inclinations from our nature, and in 
substituting impulses and aspirations which may give 
us foothold in the path that leads toward a life better 
worth living. In the figure of Seraphita we contem- 
plate the final efflorescence of such endeavor, the cul- 
minating product of a long chain of incarnations, during 
which the dominant impulse has been uniformly spirit- 
ual, and through which the carnal elements have been 
gradually subdued until at length they suffice only to 
give the mortal form coherenc}', and to supply the 
physical means of that inevitable agony of temptation 
which is the price of translation to the Divine, exacted 
equall}' from all who bear the conditions of earthl}' life, 
under whatever name they ma}' be known. For when 
the day of Deliverance is about to dawn, the hosts of 
Mara assemble, or Satan calls his legions together, 
and the supreme test of the aspirant is undergone. 
Not for naught did the devisers of the mj'steries of 
Eleusis subject the neophite to a series of ordeals 
requiring mental and physical resolution and intre- 
pidity. These ordeals symbolized the difficulties and 
pains which must be endured by all who seek to pass 
directly from the natural to the celestial. 

When — to employ for a moment the terminology of 
Schopenhauer — the mortal resolves upon exercising 
"tne denial of the will to live," all the forces of life 
marshal themselves in battle array against him. The 



Introduction. xli 

Temptation, which figures in so man}- religious, is the 
exoteric S3-mbol of this inevitable conflict. Nature, 
■which knows only the conditioned, revolts in ever}- 
fibre against the unconditioned. The Mephistopheles 
of the material world, she cannot sufl!er an}' of her 
children to escape her, and when she perceives that they 
are bent upon renunciation she summons her Lemures 
to guard all the outlets and prevent the flight of the soul 
to higher spheres. Nor is purification, innocence, in- 
herited elevation of spirit, preparedness for the taking 
on of more lofty conditions, an}^ defence against these 
attacks. On the contrary, the greater the refinement 
the greater the sensibility. So the red Indian, bound 
to the stake, endures with stolidity torture which 
would destroy life in the highly strung nervous system 
of a civilized man. When Sir Robert Peel received the 
injuries from which he died, so acute was his sensitive- 
ness that he could not tolerate the gentlest surgical 
examination, even the pressure of the bandages occa- 
sioning him so much pain that it was found necessary 
to remove them. It is true that great mental excite- 
ment may so completely dominate pain as to render 
those injured insensible to it. Thus in battle men 
desperately wounded will go on fighting sometimes 
until loss of blood causes them to faint. So also strong 
spiritual excitement ma}' operate as an anaesthetic, as is 
shown in the case of martyrs who, while their bodies 
were burning, are reported to have spoken with all the 
indications of religious rapture or ecstas}-. It is known 
that in the h3'pnotic state complete physical insensi- 



xlii Introduction. 

bility may be induced, so that needles or knives can be 
plunged deep into the tissues without causing the least 
sensation. Similar phenomena have been observed in 
many phases of the m^^sterious and Protean condi- 
tions called hysterical. Thus the Convulsionnaires of 
St. Medard actually found satisfaction in being beaten 
with the utmost violence b}' strong men, and suffered 
themselves to be struck with heavy iron bars, expe- 
riencing no pain or injury from assaults which were 
quite severe enough to have killed persons in the normal 
state. 

But none of these instances affect the fact that as 
a rule sensibility increases with the gradual predomi- 
nance of the nervous s^'stem, which is one of the most 
marked concomitants of civilization. There is indeed 
one consideration which at first sight may appear not 
to be in accord with this theory*. It has long been 
observed that women commonl}' bear pain better than 
men ; and it is perhaps generallj' supposed that the 
sensibility of women is greater than that of men. Of 
course no conclusion of an^^ value on such a point can 
be established in the absence of trustworthy data, and 
statistics here are unattainable. While, however, it 
may be admitted, as a deduction from general ex- 
perience, that women are usually- more patient under 
I^ain than men are, it is by no means so certain that 
their sensibilitj- is greater than men's, nor should it be 
too hastily' assumed that it is even equal to the latter. 
Reasoning from analogy it might be supposed that the 
capacity of women to bear pain would be greater than 



Introduction. xliii 

that of men, because the performance of their natural 
functions requires them to bear more pain, and Nature 
alwaj'S makes provision for special requirements of the 
kind. Endurance ma}' be confounded with insensi- 
tiveness, moreover, and this renders it more difficult to 
arrive at the actual state of the case. "Woman has been 
disciplined hy centuries of servitude and oppression to 
a patience which man has not, save in certain subject 
races, learned to exhibit. The American Indian, trained 
from infanc}' to conceal his feelings, and especialh' to 
repress all signs of suffering, could face torture with 
firmness. The modern citj'-bred man undoubtedly 
dreads the dentist's chair more, and perhaps actually 
suffers more in it, than did the savage in the hands 
of his enemies. Women, however, without any prep- 
aration but that of heredity, endure prolonged and 
poignant suffering, and often, if not always, with a 
composure which men at least are prone to impute to 
inferior sensitiveness. This inferiorit}', if indeed it 
exists, is merely physical, for there can be no doubt 
as to the superior spiritual sensibility of women ; and 
there is room for considerable hesitation regarding the 
other branch of the subject. 

In regard, however, to the capacity for bearing the 
psychical agon}- inseparable from such struggles as 
have to be borne by all who attain to the great Deliver- 
•ance, the higher resolution must be accorded to the 
woman, and this Balzac recognized in drawing the 
character of Seraphita. "We see her, as the final change 
approaches, plunged in the horrors of a supreme con- 



xliv Introduction. 

flict with all the earthly desires and longings and ambi- 
tions. This pure and nearly perfect creature is indeed 
beyond the reach of the gross animal passions and 
coarse lusts which sway and control the merely natural 
man. She has been relieved by her resolute and austere 
progenitors from those burdens. But still she is not 
exempt from the common destiny. "When Gotama took 
his station under the Bodhi tree — 

" He who is the Prince 
Of Darkness, Mara — knowing this was Buddh 
Who should deliver man, and now the hour 
When he should find the Truth and save the worlds — 
Gave unto all his evil powers command. 
Wherefore there trooped from every deepest pit 
The fiends who war with Wisdom and the Light, 
Arati, Trishna, Raga, and their crew 
Of passions, horrors, ignorances, lusts, 
The brood of gloom and dread ; all hating Buddh» 
Seeking to shake his mind : nor knoweth one, 
Not even the wisest, how those fiends of Hell 
Battled that night to keep the truth from Buddh. "^ 

Even so the pure Seraphita was assailed ; and if not 
perhaps with all the sensual temptations which Mara 
deployed under the eyes of the indomitable Tathagata, 
with enticements not less powerful, and seductions not 
less insidious. For such is the constitution of human 
nature that it is unable to pass even to a state the in- 
finite superiority of which it is fully assured of, without 
experiencing reluctance and sadness. 



Introduction^ xlv 

" For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey, 
This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned, 
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, 
Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind? " 

or, as the poet of" The Light of Asia" puts a like thought : 

*' Sorrow is 
Shadow to life, moving when life doth move; 
Not to be laid aside until one lays 
Living aside, with all its changing states, 
Birth, growth, decay, love, hatred, pleasure, pain, 
Being, and doing. How that none strips off 
These sad delights and pleasant griefs who lacks 
Knowledge to know them snares." 

Even the possession of that knowledge cannot avail to 
release the mortal from the pain of conflict. He may 
triumph over Mara in the end ; he may realize the illu- 
siveness of material existence ; he may attain to Nir- 
vana the blessed, the peaceful ; but he must wan his 
I way through the hosts of the tempter and prove his 
right to the crown b}' bearing the cross. 
■■ In this great ordeal Seraphita finds no help in her sin- 
k>ssness, because her spiritual development has brought 
w.ith it not only increase of sensitiveness, but an expan- 
sicm of the perceptive faculties which enables her to 
coi nprehend to the fullest extent the attractions and 
delights of the material opportunities and enjo3'ments 
she is required to renounce. The sacrifice demanded 
of h ler moreover embraces the slaying of Self. It is not 
onl.^' earthly desh-es that she must surrender, but all 



xlvi Introduction. 

desires ; for the yearning for the Divine, pure as it may 
seem, is capable of perversion into a disguised form of 
selfishness. She cannot cease to aspire, for all her 
nature is attuned heavenward ; but she must be pre- 
pared for any event, even for the disappointment of her 
dearest hopes- And that she is so prepared is shown in 
her reply to the inquiry of one of her companions as to 
whether, in dying, she expects to enter the Divine 
sphere at once. " I do not know," she replies. "It 
may be but one more step in advance ; " that is to say, 
she may not have reached the end of incarnation. But 
she must suffer temptation none the less for being un- 
certain of the future. She must demonstrate her fitness 
for translation independently of any guarantee. The 
reader is not admitted to the solemn spectacle of the 
agonized soul's passion ; and this is a fresh illustration 
of the delicacy and subtlety which characterize this 
masterpiece. It is Seraphita's old servant David who 
describes the contest between the Celestial and Infernal 
powers, in exalted and mystical terms appropriate to 
the theme. The interest and impressiveness of the 
situation are deepened by the contrasting discord of thf 3 
sceptical pastor's sarcastic and incredulous comments^. 
To him mistress and servant are alike mad. The e;x- 
citement of David, which finds vent in the most ultr^a- 
Swedenborgian language, only amuses him. It is tr-ue 
that he is unable to explain, even to himself, many' of 
the phenomena which he witnesses, but he fitly rej' )re- 
sents the natural world in getting rid of insoluble pr^-ob- 
lems by the simple method of denying their existen .ce. 



Introduction. xlvii 

There are crises in the night-long struggle, at which 
David seems almost to fear that Seraphita will succumb 
to her tempters ; but it is clearly- impossible that she 
should do so, having reached the elevation at which she 
is arrested in order that she ma}' purge herself of the 
last earthly ties. The whole episode is full of beauty 
and suffsestiveness, and it is so skilfully executed that 
no touch of bathos mars its deep spiritual charm. 

The scene which follows the Temptation of Seraphita 
is intended to illustrate at once the clairvoyant and the 
intellectual powers of this marvellous creature. It is 
the final manifestation of the masculine elements in her 
nature, the demonstration of a superiority of knowledge 
and understanding not less marked than that of her 
spirituality. Wilfrid, who represents a soul in a state 
of unstable equilibrium, poised so insecurely that a 
compix'-atively feeble impulse may alter its direction 
upward or downward, is possessed by a strong but wholly 
carnal passion for the beautiful and mysterious maiden, 
and he is the vehicle — on the physical plane — of those 
material powers which are leagued in the endeavor to 
■drag her back to earth. But Seraphita's spirituality is 
t,oo strong for Wilfrid's materialism. She sees through 
his design, reads his character, and at once determines 
th.at he shall be saved from himself, and by marriage 
wit!h Minna — the typical union between Understanding 
and Love — be set in the path of aspiration, and 
assisted toward the attainment of divine enfranchise- 
ment. At the same time Seraphita resolves to open 
the eyes of the sceptical pastor as far as may be pos- 



xlviii Introduction. 

sible, and to lift him out of his gross and paralyzing 
carnalit}'. To these ends she addresses herself in the 
remarkable exposition and arguments which she de- 
livers at a length which would be wearisome but for 
the luciditj-, force and closeness of the reasoning, and 
the profound interest which attaches to the problems 
brought under discussion. 

This speech is also to be regarded as a vindication of 
Intuition, for Seraphita is represented as having been 
reared entirely without education after the usual meth- 
ods, and the pastor Becker naturally insists that she 
must be phenomenally ignorant, and quite incapable of 
showing a reason for her faith, however fanatical tliat 
faith may be. His object, therefore, is to test and ex- 
pose her want of information, and so to convince Wil- 
frid, whose infatuation for her vexes him, that she is 
merely a self-deluded visionary, who probably inherits a 
strong tendency toward mysticism from her Swedenbor- 
gian parents. Seraphita at once perceives the mixed 
purposes of her visitors, and loses no time in showing 
that she understands the situation. Then she proceeds 
to dissect Becker's mind, to anal3'ze his scepticism, to 
state his positions with care and candor, to allow all 
his objections and difficulties their full weight, and 
finally to retort upon him with a defence and expo'si- 
tion of the spiritual in the universe, which leaves him 
amazed and dumb. In concluding the review of M. 
Becker's doubts and the reasonings upon which they 
rest, it is to be noted that the feminine element in Sera- 
phita again comes to the front. The understanding 



Introduction. xlix 

does not suffice for the elucidation of the spiritual 
truths which are next to be dealt with. The Woman- 
Soul is at this point called upon to expound those 
highest mysteries which are involved in the apprehen- 
sion of the great scheme of things. The ke3'-note of 
this second and more elevated branch of Seraphita's 
discourse is struck in the opening words. '* Belief is 
a_gi£t. To believe is to feel. T o believe in G od it is 
nece^ss arj' to feel God. Is^this the language of Mys- 
ticism? Seraphita has in her opening remarks dwelt 
upon the fact — patent bcN'ond serious controversy — 
that Man unites, or is the point of junction for, two 
worlds, the Finite and the Infinite. But if this be 
so how is it possible to explain all his relations in 
terms of the Finite ; how can it be possible to com- 
prehend all his relations without taking account of 
those which link him with the Infinite? Nevertheless, 
neither explanation nor comprehension is to be attained 
8 o long as the methods and the terminology of the in- 
ferior, the conditioned state, are alone emploj'ed in the 
investigation. The situation is precisely that of the 
men of science who involve themselves and others in 
hopeless confusion by discussing Spirit in terras of 
Matt.er. Neither can Matter be discussed in terms of 
Spirit. To each world its own terminology, its own 
methods and instruments of research. The Finite in 
Man oan never apprehend Infinity ; but the Infinite in 
Man i/nay approach realization of that to which it is by 
unity f )f nature allied. 

Belief, then, or Faith, is the key which alone opens 



1 Introduction. 

the doorjofjii£_[nfinite, and it does so by lifting the 
soul above the material plane, ancl endowing it with 
percet^ive powers w] [iicli~carnmt' be at^quTred througl 
any mater ial educational methods. The Understanding 
caB^be cultivated to such an extent that it may explain 
and realize the meaning of the purely phenomenal ; but 
there the limit of its capacit}- is reached. It is the agent 
of material apprehension, perfectly fitted to that end, 
and supreme judge in its own court. But its jurisdic- 
tion ceases where the domain of Faith begins, and the 
latter must be the guide and interpreter throughout the 
spiritual regions. Th e Und erstanding refuses to believe 
what it cannot grasp, and the position is perfectly- nat- 
ural and perfectly just. But the Understanding is, after 
all, only one element in the constitution of Man, and it 
is the lower power of the two which are given him for 
guidance. According to the philosoph}' of Louis Lam- 
bert (of which " Seraphita " is the final fruition) the civil- 
ization of the world is supported and carried forwani 
in the main, and altogether so far as its material as- 
pects are concerned, b}^ what he terms the Abstrjiie- 
tive, — that is, by those who confine thei^ selves to the 
development of their intellectual faculties, and virtu^ally 
ignore their spiritual side. There is no height or splen- 
dor or glory of material civilization which cannctt be 
thus attained; but a purely material civilization, how- 
ever brilliant and outwardly prosperous and flouriishing 
it may appear, must contain the seeds of its own decay 
and overthrow, as all history teaches by the most preg- 
nant and impressive examples. Unassisted Reason 



Introduction. li 

shows the existence of many m3'steries bej'ond the 
power of Reason to solve ; yet Reason persists in re- 
jecting the agencies whereb}' if at all these mysteries 
may be explained, — and in so acting renounces the 
hope of ever penetrating be^'ond secondary causes and 
phenomenal appearances. This, according to Seraphita, 
is the explanation of what is now called Agnosticism. 

It may be of interest to see what Swedenborg teaches 
in this connection. Faith, according to the Swedish 
sage is "an internal acknowledgment of truth." Faith 
and truth, he declares, are one, and the angels know 
nothing of faith, but what men call faith they call truth. 
But he affirms that " by things known to explore the 
mysteries of faith is as impossible as for a camel to 
pass through the eye of a needle, or for a rib to govern 
the purest fibrils of the chest and heart, — so gross, 
yea, much more gross, is the sensual and knowing 
relatively to the spiritual and celestial." And concern- 
ing the belief in and acceptance of things not compre- 
hended by the intellect, he says : " Every one ma}' see 
c*^^hat a man is governed by the principles he adopts, 
bie they ever so false, and that all his knowledge and 
re»asoning favor his principles ; for innumerable con- 
siu'erations tending to support them readil}- present 
theiTQselves to his mind, and thus he is confirmed in 
falsities. He, therefore, who assumes as a principle 
that nothing is to be believed until it is seen and under- 
^tooii can never believe ; for spiritual and celestial 
things are neither seen with the eyes nor grasped by 
th( " magination." And again, he sa3's : "There are 



lii Introduction. 

two principles, one of which leads to all folly and mad- 
ness, the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The 
former principle is to deny all things, or to sa}' in one's 
heart that he cannot believe them nntil he is convinced 
by what he can comprehend or be sensible of; this 
principle is what leads to all folh' and madness, and 
ma}' be called the negative principle. . . . Those who 
think from the negative principle, the more they take 
counsel of matters of reason, of knowledge, and of 
philosophy, the more they plunge themselves into dark- 
ness, until at length they come to deny all things. 
The reason is that from things inferior no one compre- 
hends things superior, that is, things spiritual and celes- 
tial, — still less things diAdne, because they transcend 
all understanding ; and besides, everything is then 
involved in negatives from the beginning." 

The argument of Seraphita is to the same effect. 
Finite Reason, she contends, cannot comprehend Infin- 
ite purposes and orderings. The measuring instrument 
which man seeks to apply to the divine is inadequate. 
He might be more modest if he could be made to see^ 
how frequently he fails to comprehend, not -^i^lely th.e 
Infinite, but phenomena which lie, so to ispeak, at h'ls 
own door, and upon his own plane of existence. Agaim, 
this sceptical being ventures to deny God because- of 
His intangibility and invisibility, while at the sfime 
time he gives name and form to abstractions, — as for 
instance. Number. It is true that Number is a reallity, 
but the average man does not comprehend its sig-^nifi- 
cance, and the Number which he figures to himself, and 



Introduction. liii 

wherewith he amuses himself, is \Qxy ditfereut from the 
real Number. The same considerations applj- to the 
abstractive Time and Space, neither of which is more 
than a name, representing no noumenon, answering to 
no actual entity, being in fact no more than an inven- 
tion for the convenience of measuring those human 
relations which cannot be more trul}- and exacth' esti- 
mated, because — and onl}' because — the human mind 
is so inadequate to the work which it desires and 
attempts to perform. The human mind as confined 
and restricted b}- scepticism, that is ; for when opened 
b}' spiritual illumination it is capable of rising to great 
altitudes, and of apprehending many things in their 
true and ultimate significance. 

The staple objection to the form of argument em- 
ployed here b}' Seraphita is the futility of all modes of 
inquiry which transcend the Reason ; it being assumed 
tliat the human mind is incapable of receiving demon- 
stration of truth otherwise than through the operation 
of the reasoning faculty, which proceeds entireh' upon 
experience, and, where experience ends, ceases to have 
anv point d'^appui. A very fair example of this line 
of argument is to be found in Lotze's " Microcosmos." 
*' If," that author observes, " reason is not of itself 
capable of finding the highest truth, but on the contrary 
sttinds in need of a revelation which is either contained 
in some divine act of historic occurrence, or is con- 
tinually repeated in men's hearts, still reason must be 
able to understand the revealed truth at least so far as 
to recognize in it the satisfying and convincing conclu- 



liv Introduction. 

sion of those upward-soaring trains of thought which 
reason itself began, led by its own needs, but was not 
able to bring to an end. For all religious truth is a 
moral good, not a mere object of curiosity. It may 
therefore include some mysteries inaccessible to reason, 
but will only do so in as far as these are indispensable 
in order to combine satisfactorily other and obvious 
points of great importance ; the secrecy of sxij m3-sterv 
is in itself no reason for venerating it ; a secrecy that 
was permanent and in its nature eternal would only be 
a reason for indifference towards anything which should 
thus refuse to be brought into connection with mental 
needs ; and finall}-, above all things, to revel in secrets 
which are destined to remain secrets is necessarily not 
in accord with the notion of a revelation." The 
philosopher then proceeds to put these questions : " But 
must that which is a secret for cognition be alwa3's realh^ 
a secret? Does not the nature of faith consist in this, 
that it affords a certainty of that which no cognition can 
grasp, as well of lohat it is, as that it is? And does 
not all science itself, when it has finished its inves- 
tigations of particulars, come back to grasp, in a faith 
of which the certainty is indemonstrable and yet irref- 
ragable, those highest truths on which the evidence 
of other knowledge depends? There is certainly a 
germ of truth in this rejoinder ; but not the less 
clear is the essential difference that separates such 
scientific faith from religious faith." It is unnecessary 
to follow Lotze's argument further. Enough has been 
quoted to illustrate the common error of what Louis 



Introduction. Iv 

Lambert would have called the abstractive method of 
ratiocination. 

Scraphita tells Pastor Becker that he and she speak 
different languages in discussing these high questions, 
and the same may be said of all who take opposite sides 
on the question of psj-chologic capacities and poten- 
tialities. The position of Seraphita, who is a Specialist, 
should, however, be made clear. All knowledge is rela- 
tive. There are mysteries which no created being can 
ever comprehend. As Seraphita puts it, " To under- 
stand God would be to be God." Thus also the Asiatic 
occultists, who profess to derive their knowledge of the 
origin and destiny of the universe from higher intelli- 
gences, corresponding in many respects to the angels 
of the Chi-istian Church, affirm that neither their ex- 
alted cori-espondents and revelators nor the still higher 
beings with whom the latter are in relations, possess 
any knowledge of the Supreme Being. Science pre- 
tends no farther than to the origination of the universe 
by Motion ; the genesis of that Motion lies beyond its 
utmost reach of apprehension. But the contention of 
lialzac is that a much higher knowledge than is attain- 
able by the Reason is within the grasp of a duly trained 
and disciplined Humanit}', developed in one direction 
through many incarnations, as Seraphita is supposed 
to iiave been, and so purified from the materialism 
which in the race at large obstructs perception that to 
her strengthened and clarified vision mysteries cease to 
be obscure, and the sphere of cognition is indefinitely^ 
enlarged. Of course it is apparent that such a being 



Ivi Introduction. 

cannot argue on anything like equal terms with such a 
gross sceptic as Pastor Becker. In her, intellection 
has already come to operate angelically rather than 
humanly, and what to her opponent appears paradox 
and incomprehensibility is to her demonstrated and 
familiar truth. Nowhere is the tension of Balzac's 
thought and the resolute maintenance of his imagina- 
tion upon this elevated plane of imaginative creation 
more strikingly exhibited than in this long and subtle 
discourse of Seraphita. An inferior artist could not 
have borne so severe a test, but would have lapsed into 
commonplace before the end was reached. Seraphita, 
however, supports her high arguments with perfectly 
natural ease throughout. The philosophy of Louis 
Lambert will be recognized repeatedly in it. This is 
in accordance with the author's general scheme. Sera- 
phita herself is the culmination of the noble body of 
thought outlined in " Louis Lambert." In her we see 
the consummation of the long process of transformation 
and evolution through and by which the mortal puts 
on immortality, the merely Human blossoms into the. 
celestial. 

It is also to be obsers^ed that though Balzac has 
modernized the conception of this marvellous and beau- 
tiful process, he is in no way to be regarded as the 
inventor of that conception. As to its origin we shall 
perhaps seek it in vain, for the deeper we explore the 
occult and religious literature of antiquity the more 
evidence we find of the archaism of the central belief. 
The doctrine of metempsychosis is correlated with that 



Introduction. Ivii 

of iierfeetibilit}', vfliile the means bj which the latter 
end ma^' be attained have been so constantly and 
minutely discussed, tested, and analyzed by Eastern 
philosophers and psychologists as to furnish forth a 
complete code, the very terminolog}- of which has be- 
wildered and baffled Western philologists, men of 
science, and above all, theologians. Nevertheless, a 
belief in the possibility of realizing in the flesh a 
much higher knowledge and perception than materialist 
methods of education are capable of attaining to, has 
in various ways descended and persisted through all 
ages to the present time ; and in support of this belief 
there has been preserved and recorded a certain amount 
of what, in almost any other case, would generally be 
accepted as substantive evidence, but in this case is 
accepted or rejected with little regard to its true evi- 
dential value, and for the most part according as the 
individual to whom it is submitted is dominated by 
Spiritual or Materialist prepossessions. It is true that 
.in the West the credibility of all such phenomena has 
tteen weakened by the fading out of the doctrine of 
reincarnation ; for apart from that doctrine every ap- 
pr:oximation to the higher life recorded must savor so 
muich of miracle as to repel philosophic minds and 
cause consideration of the alleged facts to be refused 
or abandoned. In Oriental countries, where metem- 
psyc\iosis has never ceased to be accepted, it obviously 
supplies plausible explanations for man}* appearances 
whie, ' under other conditions would stronglv suefgest 
the sup- rnatural. Among Asiatics, reincarnation is con- 



Iviii Introduction. 

sidered the normal, nay, the inevitable, career, and in 
connection with the Law of Karma it affords a faith 
which is held by a large proportion of the earth's in- 
habitants. Thus it is clear that the idea of Seraphita 
would be at once understood b}' a Hindu, who would 
see nothing fanciful or extravagant in the personifica- 
tion, which he would probably classify in his own mind 
as that of a female Rishi. Swedenborg, whether con- 
sciously or unconsciousl}', derived many of his beliefs 
as to other states of existence, it is not necessary to 
sa}' from the Eastern sages, but at all events fx'om the 
same sources which were open to those sages. He 
altered some of these Oriental ideas strangely, beyond 
a question, and clothed them with material garments 
such as would have bewildered the Indian philosophers, 
whose theories were of the soul, without the alloy of 
earth which modern civilization has, natural!}' perhaps, 
given to them. In some respects Seraphita is more 
Oriental than Swedenborgian ; but in truth Balzac has 
put many occult principles together in fashioning lhi« 
unique creature, and in the end he has. perhaps wisely-, 
borrowed freely the imagery and the color as well as the 
general conceptions which characterize what are call'ed 
the ecstatic visions of the Christian saints, especially 
the mystics of comparative!}- modern times. 

The occult doctrine of Number is touched upoiti in 
Seraphita's discourse. As the subject has already been 
considered at some length in the Introduction to " I^ouis 
Lambert," and as Balzac makes his meaning compara- 
tively clear, perhaps it is not necessary to reopen that 



Introduction. lix 

question ; to a full understanding of which, moreover, 
some knowledge of the Kabbala is requisite. It may, 
however, be as well to point out that Balzac does not fol- 
low Pythagoras in materiaUzing Number ; the entities to 
which he refers are purely spiritual and mystical. But 
there is in this remarkable discourse of Seraphita a view 
of the straight line and the circle which it is necessary 
to examine carefully, for at first sight it appears to be 
in hopeless contradiction with all occult teaching. Hav- 
ing shown that the circle and the curve govern created 
forms, Seraphita proceeds thus: "Who shall decide 
between rectiUnear and curvilinear geometry? between 
the theory of the straight line and that of the curve? If 
in His vast work, the mysterious Artificer, who knows 
how to reach his ends miraculously fast, never employs 
a straight line except to cut off an angle and so obtain 
a curv^e, neither does man himself always rely upon it. 
The bullet which he aims direct proceeds by a curve, 
and when you wish to strike a certain point in space, 
you impel your bombshell along its cruel parabola. 
None of your men of science have drawn from this fact 
the simple deduction that the Curve is the law of the 
material worlds, and the Straight line that of the spirit- 
ual worlds ; one is the theory of finite creations, the 
other the theory of the infinite. Man, who alone in 
this world has a knowledge of the Infinite, can alone 
know the straight line ; he alone has the sense of verti- 
eality placed in a special organ. A fondness for the 
creations of the curve would seem to be in certain men 
an indication of the impurity of their nature still coa- 



Ix Introduction. 

joined to the material substances which engender us ; 
and the love of great souls for the straight line seems to 
show in them an intuition of heaven." 

This doctrine is clearl}^ not derived from Sweden- 
borg, whose central theory of Correspondences is funda- 
mentally in conflict with it. According to the Swedish 
seer ever^-thing material is a type and representation of 
something spiritual. Swedenborg's philosophical hy- 
pothesis of vortices, moreover, has nothing in common 
with this intimation of the superior spirituality of the 
line. That the circle is the most perfect of all figures 
is never doubted by the author of the vortical theory. 
Professor Winchell has condensed this theory conven- 
ientlv, and from him a few sentences ma}' be quoted : 
"The first cause is the infinite or unlimited. This 
gives existence to the first finite or limited. That 
which produces a limit is analogous to motion. The 
limit produced is a point, the essence of which is mo- 
tion ; but being without parts, this essence is not act- 
ual motion but only a conatus to it. From this first 
proceed extension, space, figure, and succession, or time. 
As in geometr}' a point generates a line, a line a sur- 
face, and a surface a solid, so here the conatus of the 
point tends towards lines, surfaces, and solids. In 
other words, tlie universe is contained in ovo in the first 
natural point. The motion toward which the conatus 
tends is circular, smce the circle is the inost perfect of 
all figures, and tendency to motion impressed by the 
Infinite must be tendency to the most perfect figure.'' 
And again : " The most perfect figure of the motion 



Introduction. Ixi 

above described must be the perpetually circular. . . . 
It must necessarily be of a spiral figure, which is the 
most perfect of all figures," — and much more reasoning 
to the same eflfect. And in this view of the circle Sweden- 
borg does but follow the most ancient of occult doctrines, 
as may readily be perceived. The most venerable cosmo- 
gonic symbol is the point in the circle, — the point repre- 
senting the creating Logos, the Breath of the Absolute 
imparting Motion to Matter ; the circle t3'pifying the un- 
limited, the Infinite, which includes and controls all cre- 
ated things. Again, the Spirit of Life and Immortality 
have from the earliest times been symbolized b}' the 
circle. The whole Kabbala proceeds upon the theor}' 
of circles, which is the formulating principle of the doc- 
trine of Emanations. In all hermetic scriptures the 
same teaching will be found. The circle was the sym- 
bol of the most spiritual views. Thus Proclus says : 
" Before producing the material worlds which move in 
a circle, the Creative Power produced the invisible 
Circles." The Golden Egg of Brahma is another illus- 
tration of the universality of this doctrine. In fact, as 
is observed in "The Secret Doctrine," " In the secret 
doctrine the concealed unity — whether representing 
Parahrahmam, or the 'Great Extreme' of Confucius, 
or the Deity concealed by Phta, the Eternal light, or 
again, the Jewish En-Soph — is always found to be sym- 
bolized l)y a circle, or the 'nought' (absolute No — 
Thing and Nothing, because it is injlnite and the 
All) ; while the God-manifested (b^- its works) is re- 
ferred to as the diameter of that circle. The symbol- 



Ixiv Introduction. 

with Nature's noblest mood, and might well be the 

creation of these Devas with which the m3-thology of 

Hindustan peoples the unseen universe. No poet can 

fail to perceive and take delight in the beauties of the 

curve as exhibited in Nature ; and the poetical vision 

has never been more subtly or sweetly expressed than 

by Emerson : — 

" For Nature beats in perfect tune, 
And rounds with rhyme her every rune, 
Whether she work in land or sea, 
Or hide underground her alchemy. 
Thou canst not wave thy staff in air, 
Or dip thy paddle in the lake, 
But it carves the bow of beauty there, 
And the ripples in rhymes the oar forsake." 

So fond is Nature of the curve that it underlies all her 
work and gives to it the deepest charm and attraction. 
The straight line she does not greatly affect, naj-, she 
takes a mischievous pleasure, apparently*, in baffling 
man's efforts to establish it. Even her blindest forces 
resist its manifestations as bj' some law. " Thou canst 
not wave thy staff in air," but it " carves the bow of 
beauty there." The resistance of the tenuous atmos- 
phere thwarts the downright, rectilinear impulse, and 
forces the staff into the curves which symbolize the 
perfection of form. 

But Seraphita affirms that the curve is really the 
inferior S3'mbol ; that it belongs to and expresses the 
Finite ; whereas the straight line pertains to the Infi- 
nite. How shall this paradox be explained? To the 
merely mortal understanding, naj-, to that understand- 



Introduction. Ixv 

ing when raised to its highest power, the circle and the 
curve are and have ever been the symbols of the lofti- 
est conceptions, the kej-s to the profoundest systems 
of thought. No doubt the line may be regarded mathe- 
matically as the sign of infinite extension, but it surely 
has little connection with Idealism, with Poetry, with 
Imagination, or Beauty, or Religion. With Duty it as- 
suredly has clear and close affiliations, however, and 
that fact may well give us pause ; for to comprehend 
Duty thoroughly is indeed to penetrate into arcana 
which, if such vision be possible to the finite, extend to 
the very threshold of infinity. There is nothing which 
so synthesizes and embraces Matter and Spirit as this 
same apprehension of Duty ; and keeping fast hold of 
that idea we may perhaps be able to throw a little light 
upon Seraphita's meaning in the difficult passage under 
consideration. The ideal here concerned is indeed too 
little reverenced in these days. Yet it is as true as ever 
that " the path of duty is the way to glory," and that 

" He that, ever following her commands, 
On with toil of heart and knees and hands, 
\ Thro' the long gorge to the far light has won 
His path upward, and prevail'd, 
Shall find the toppling crags of Duty scaled 
Are close upon the shining table-lands 
ITo which our God himself is moon and sun." 

For " Duty, lov'd of Love " is the highest test of human 
aspiration, the surest measure of human progress, and 
it may well be that the straiglit line whicli is associated 
with and symbolizes it is in the final analysis an intima- 



Ixvi Introduction. 

tiou and a belonging of that supreme existence whose 
remoteness and majesty transcend conditioned thought, 
and on this plane can onl}- be dimly perceived as tlie 
Something which metaph^-sical analysis feels compelled 
to postulate in partial explanation of the Knowable. 

The Logos, the Point within the Circle, was not, as 
often mistakenly supposed, held bj^ the students of the 
archaic doctrine to be the Supreme or Absolute. It 
was really but the symbol of the Manifested, — that of 
which the human mind can in some way take cogni- 
zance. The old theogonies avoid the perplexities and 
contradictions so strongly presented by Seraphita when 
examining the doubts which assail the sceptical Pastor, 
bj' postulating a First Cause bej'ond the actual Artificer 
of the Universe. So Porphyrj- (cited by Taylor) saj's : 
" To that God who is above all things, neither external 
speech ought to be addressed, nor 3et that which is 
inward." Thus Proclus speaks of the highest principle 
as " more ineffable than all silence, and more occult 
than all essence," and as being " concealed amidst the 
intelligible gods." This is the Ain-Soph of the Kabbala, 
— the name given it there being almost s3-nonymous 
in meaning with the Unknowable of modern Agnos- 
ticism, though the latter professes to find the Logos 
equally inscrutable. Now it is conceivable that while 
the circle is, as Seraphita says, the s3'mbol of the 
Created, the line may be that of the Uncreated, that is 
to say, the Infinite. The fact that to us who exist on 
this earthly plane the circle presents the most perfect 
figure does not appear a reallj' serious obstacle to the 



Introduction. Ixvii 

reception of this view ; for the circle might \exy well 
be the most perfect figure as related to Matter in all 
its modifications, or even as related to the lower spir- 
itual spheres into which alone it ma}' be supposed that 
incarnated spirit is capable of penetrating ; and ^^et it 
might not be adapted to that highest form of existence 
which is altogether above and bej'ond human appre- 
hension. Either this is the interpretation to be put 
upon Seraphita's statement concerning the relations 
and symbolism of the line and the circle, or it must be 
concluded that Balzac has fallen into an error so gross 
that it is incredible it should have been committed by 
a student of occultism in every other particular so 
firml}' grounded. 

There is indeed no theory- advanced in either of the 
philosophical romances of Balzac which cannot be traced 
to authorities and co-ordinated with some accepted doc- 
trine. He never delivers himself over recklessly to his 
fanc}- in these works, and the smallest suggestion has 
a significance of its own. In the present instance he 
certainh' appears to traverse even wideh' adopted es- 
oteric teachings, but the more reasonable assumption 
must be that this contradiction is onlj- apparent and not 
fundamental. It moi'eover evidently encloses a bold 
conception, and one which is calculated to exalt the 
character and conve}' a lofty idea of the powers and 
perceptions of Seraphita. Never does she tower more 
majestically over her interlocutors and companions 
than when she is delivering herself of this masfnificent 
thought ; and nowhere are the capabilities and poten- 



Ixviii Introduction. 

tialities of humanit}' more strikingly and comprehen- 
sively suggested than in the intimation that man 
contains within himself an element which links him 
lot alone with the highest heavens, but with that in- 
scrutable, eternal power which transcends our concep- 
tion of the celestial as much as that surpasses our 
material experience. The thought involved is indeed 
most noble. It is that the destinj' of man connects 
him with an existence independent of and superior to 
all the changes which Matter can undergo ; with an 
existence indissoluble by the termination either of 
Material or Spiritual universes ; with an existence 
unaffected by pralayas and manvantaras, and which 
will bear him scathless through every catastrophe and 
cataclysm to which the formed and the formless worlds 
are said by Eastern occultism to be alike subject. The 
vista thus opened to the imagination is stupendous 
beyond question, but it may be explored boldly or 
timidly as the reader's inclinations and mental and 
spiritual tendencies determine. 

The strictures of Seraphita upon the half-truths and 
fallacies of physical science may be studied profitably 
in connection with that critical work of Judge Stallo, 
" The Concepts and Theories of Modern Physics," 
which is cited in the Introduction to Louis Lambert. 
But the real uncertainty of many alleged scientific 
certainties is perhaps best shown in the mercilessl}'' 
destructive criticism which rival men of science practise 
upon one another's theories and doctrines. The refer- 
ence to ' ' the greatest man among you " — who is said by 



Introduction. Ixix 

Seraphita, with rhetorical exaggeration, to have "died 
in despair " because toward the close of his life he 
realized the inadequacy of his favorite hypothesis to 
account for the universe — of course applies to Sir 
Isaac Newton, whose essay at interpretation of the 
Apocalypse caused his brother scientists to shrug their 
shoulders and lament the breaking down of that superb 
mind. Nor is it at all incredible that Newton should 
have been drawn to his Scriptural studies by recognition 
of the need for some such initiating and sustaining force 
in the universe as the old doctrine of the Logos supplies. 
It is certain, as has been pointed out before, that he 
was by no means so self-confident as his followers, and 
that in particular he entertained serious doubts as to the 
sufficiency of his theory of gi-avitation, — doubts, be it 
said, which modern research and scientific progress 
have strengthened instead of diminishing. Indeed, 
Seraphita might have reinforced her argument with 
many more instances of scientific mistakes and in- 
sufficient explanations. There are to-day few even of 
the theories commonly regarded as most firmly estab- 
lished which do not present difficulties hitherto in- 
soluble, and which are not cautiously held by men of 
truly open minds as at the best provisional. — con- 
venient working hypotheses, but not to be safely made 
the ground of definitive conclusions. 

At the close of Seraphita's harangue her auditors 
withdraw, confounded ; but the impression produced 
upon their minds rapidly fades, and the next morning 
the Pastor is once more prepared to find, in the pages 



Ixx Introduction. 

of his favorite Wier, a clue to the in3'stei'ious knowl- 
edge and argumentative powers of the 3'oung girl, 
whom he would fain regard as insane or under "pos- 
session." As Balzac cites Wier on several occasions 
in this book, and as he is an author probably not 
known to the generalit}' of readers, it may be well to 
giA^e some account of his writings, the more particu- 
larl}' as there is some special significance in the refer- 
ence to his once celebrated work on witchcraft. John 
Wier was a learned physician of Cleves, who was the 
first to publish a protest against the wild witchcraft 
panic that in the sixteenth and many preceding centu- 
ries, caused a frightful slaughter of deluded and inno- 
cent victims throughout Europe. Wier's book, entitled 
" De Praestigiis Daemonum," would not in the present 
day be regarded as anything but a grossly superstitious 
work. The author was indeed no less credulous than 
his contemporaries. He believed with them that the 
atmosphere swarmed with evil spirits, that a personal 
devil went around like a roaring lion, destro3ing souls, 
that all manner of miraculous events were continually 
occurring. In fact, he accepted all the evidence upon 
which Sprenger, Bodin, and the whole school of the In- 
quisition, founded their theories of witchcraft ; but he 
interpreted the alleged phenomena differentl}', and more 
in accord with the scientific spirit. His explanation 
was that many of the so-called witches were lunatics, 
and that the majority of those said to be bewitched, 
together with man}' accused of sorcery, were simply 
possessed b}' the devil. The latter, he argued, had no 



Introduction. Ixxi 

need to act iudireetlj' through witches, when he could 
dekide his victims directly', and he disposed of the 
witch theory by asserting that Satan put it into the 
heads of the possessed to denounce old women as 
witches, in order that as much mischief and suffering 
as possible might be caused. Wier was a humane 
man, — a rare phenomenon in his time, — and the tor- 
tures and burnings occurring ever3-where revolted him. 
He was careful to declare his opinion that all real 
witches deserved the most severe punishment ; but 
he was plainly doubtful whether there were an}- real 
witches. 

Conservative and credulous as his book appears now, 
it created intense indignation among the believers in 
witchcraft, who were not merely the majority of men 
then living, but, which seems far stranger, the majority 
of the educated and (relativelj-) intelligent class. In 
proof of this, the fact ma}' be cited that Wier's book 
was answered by John Bodin, in an equally remarkable 
work entitled " De la Demonomanie des Sorciers." 
Bodin attacked Wier with ferocity, upholding the au- 
thority of the indorsers of witchcraft and denouncing 
the kindly doctor of Cleves as little better than an athe- 
ist and a heretic. Now Bodin, as Lecky observes 
in his " History' of Rationalism," was " esteemed by 
many of his contemporaries the ablest man who had 
then arisen in France, and the verdict has been but 
littliC qualified by later writers. Amid all the distrac- 
tions of a dissipated and inti'iguing court, and all the 
labors of a judicial position, he had amassed an amount 



Ixxii Introduction. 

of learning so vast and so various as to place him in 
the very first rank of the scholars of his nation. He 
has also the far higher merit of being one of the chief 
founders of political philosophy and political histor}', 
and of having anticipated on these subjects many of 
the conclusions of our own day." Yet there is no 
superstition, no legend, no absurd and preposterous 
invention, no wild and grotesque imagination, too diffi- 
cult to be received and digested by this philosopher 
and sage. He relies absolutel}^ upon authority. He 
never questions traditions. He never reasons upon 
matters of fact. He never exhibits for a single moment 
a tendency toward scientific investigation, compari- 
son, and inference. He abuses Wier in the old-fash- 
ioned dogmatic, theological manner. He calls his book 
a " tissue of horrible blasphemies." He declares that 
it cannot be read "without righteous anger." Wier 
has " armed himself against God ; " he has done his 
best to disseminate witchcraft, to support the kingdom 
of Satan, and so forth through many pages. Yet Wier 
had truly not advanced very far before his age. He 
held to most of the old barbarous doctrines, and among 
them to that of the superior innate frailty and deprav- 
ity of women. He, in common with manj^ others, 
had asked himself why so large a proportion of alleged 
witches were women ; and he, in common with many 
others, explained the fact b}' asserting that they were 
so prone to evil that Satan found them an easj- pre}'. 
Perhaps it was especiall}' because of Wier's chapter 
upon the weaknesses and wickedness of women that 



Introduction. Ixxiii 

Balzac chose this author as the favorite authority of 
Pastor Becker. 

In the twenty-seventh chapter of his sixth book he 
cites a long array of classical writers in support of the 
contention that women have always been speciall}- ad- 
dicted to the employment of poison as an agent of re- 
venge or passion. In the sixth chapter of his third 
book he observes: " Le diable ennemi fin, ruze et 
cauteleux, induit volontiers le sexe feminin, lequel est 
inconstant k raison de sa complexion, de legere croy- 
ance, malicieux, impatient, melancolique pour ne pou- 
voir commander k ses afections ; et principaleraent les 
vieilles, debiles, stupides et d'esprit chancelant." This 
is why that Old Serpent addressed himself rather to 
Eve than to Adam ; and this is why he so easily 
seduced Eve. The holy Saint Peter also has denomi- 
nated them "weak vessels," and Saint Chrysostom has 
remarked, in his homily upon Matthew, that the female 
sex is imprudent and ductile, easily influenced and 
swayed, either from good to evil or from evil to good. 
He ventures into the difficult region of etymology in 
search of further proof, and discovers one in the deri- 
vation of the Latin muUer from mollier or molU, ' ' which 
signifies softness." It may be conjectured that when 
Pastor Becker sought in the treatise of John Wier con- 
firmation of his theory regarding Seraphita's inspiration, 
he had in mind the worth}' doctor's views concerning 
women, and their special fitness as vehicles of diaboli- 
cal influences. Pastor Becker refers, as a case in point, 
to the histoi-y of a young Italian girl who, at the age of 



Ixxiv Introduction. 

twelve, spoke forty-two languages, ancient and modern. 
Wier has a story of a Saxon woman, unable to read or 
write, who ' ' being possessed by the devil " spoke in 
Latin and Greek, and prophesied concerning future 
events, — all of which came to pass. He also tells of 
an idiotic Italian woman who, being under the same 
infernal influence, and asked which was Virgil's finest 
verse, replied suddenly — 

" Discite justitiam moniti et non temnere Divos." 

It is an interesting point in these old ideas that the 
mediaeval notions about women rested upon observa- 
tion of the essential differences between the masculine 
and feminine natures ; but external observation alone. 
To quote Leck^-'s admirable analj'sis of mediaeval per- 
secution again : ' ' The question why the immense 
majority of those who were accused of sorcery should 
be women early attracted attention ; and it was gener- 
ally answered, not by the sensibilit}' of their nervous 
constitution, and b}- their consequent liability to re- 
ligious monomania and epidemics, but by the inherent 
wickedness of the sex. There was no subject on which 
the old writers expatiated with more indignant elo- 
quence, or with more copious illustration," — of which 
we have just given an example in John "VVier. Another 
instance of the horrible perversion of ideas which 
characterized those dark ages may be found in the 
interpretation given to the superior constancy' of women 
in facing torture. The contemporary explanation of 
this was that the Devil provided all witches with means 



Introduction. Ixxv 

of withstanding the torment ; and the inevitable corol- 
lary of such reasoning was a stimulation of ingenuity 
in devising and apph'ing more searching and cruel 
tortures to women. There can be no question that 
had Seraphita lived in the time of Wier and Bodin the 
former would have considered her a demoniac, and the 
latter would have denounced her as a witch, the only 
fit destiny of whom was the stake : and it may be that 
Balzac intended to hint at the contrast between med 
iaeval and modern thought in introducing, in John Wier, 
the most signal, but at tbe same time narrow and feeble, 
illustration of sixteenth century liberalism. 

The sixth chapter of ' ' Seraphita " is chiefly occupied 
with the beautiful and noble discourse in which the 
dying m3-stic unfolds to her companions the secret of 
"the Path." Up to this time Wilfrid, who represents 
the Abstractive type, has failed to understand Seraphita. 
Earthl}' ambitions still burn fiercely in his breast. 
He cherishes what seem to him high thoughts of con- 
quest. He would go to Central Asia and plot against 
the British supremac}' in India. He would head such 
a formidable irruption of Asiatic tribes as Genghis 
Khan organized. He thinks that the prospect of sov- 
ereignty, of Oriental luxury and splendor, will tempt 
Seraphita, and he la^'s before her his far-reaching 
schemes and invites her to share his glory. But Sera- 
phita smiles. There is for her no temptation in such 
offers. As she says, beings more powerful than Wilfrid 
have alread}' sought to dazzle her with far greater gifts. 
Minna approaches with a more dangerous because a 



Ixxvi Introduction. 

purer and higher petition. She offers nothing but her< 
self as a vicarious sufferer. Love raises her above the 
sphere of the Abstractive. Already the divine is shin- 
ing through her envelope of flesh. Alread}* the tender 
loyal heart has found the entrance to the Path by 
which alone the celestial sphere can be attained. Then 
the prophetic vision of Seraphita recognizes in these 
two the elements of Force and Love which, when puri- 
fied by the discipline of patient suffering, will unite to 
constitute the relatively perfect Angelic entity. This 
is the meaning of the exclamation she utters in gazing 
upon Wilfrid and Minna before she begins her final 
address to them. 

That address may be regarded as in some sense a 
recapitulation of all the doctrines indicated and shad- 
owed forth in the preceding parts of the stor}'. Once 
more, and now witli large insistence, the doctrine of re- 
incarnation is dwelt upon, and referred to as the neces- 
sary and sole explanation of human evolution. Balzac 
here treats it more in detail than he has done elsewhere, 
although it is the basis of Seraphita's history, and 
makes intelligible the whole structure of her existence 
and theosophy. Seraphita traces existence from the 
Instinctive sphere upward. The lower life is occupied, 
she says, with exploitation of the purely material. It is 
there that the inevitable lust of possession has to be 
worked out. It is there that men toil and struggle to 
amass earthly treasures, and, having succeeded, slowly 
realize the uselessness of such riches. Matter must be 
exhausted before Spirit assumes control, and it may 



Introduction. Ixxvii 

happen that many existences are required to expend the 
craving for impermanent possessions. As a rule men 
indulge their lowest desires to satiety, and it is only 
when disgust overcomes them, when the emptiness of 
all mundane enjoyments is demonstrated b}' prolonged 
experiment, that they begin to seek a more excellent 
way. The long period of education is protracted still 
further by relapses and excesses. " A lifetime is often 
no more than sufficient to acquire virtues which balance 
the vices of the preceding existence." At length suffer- 
ing brings love, and love self-sacrifice, and that aspira- 
tion, and aspiration, prayer; which is the direct bond 
of union between the finite and the infinite. It is in- 
deed no new lesson. The directions for gaining the 
strait and narrow path have been vouchsafed to the sons 
of men in countless forms and ways, and with charac- 
teristic perseverance and malign ingenuity \hey have 
nullified their opportunities again and again by quarrel- 
ling over the phraseology and disputing the authority of 
the guide-books, while ignoring the significance of the 
essential harmony which subsists between all the rules 
laid down for the attainment of ultimate felicity and 
emancipation from evil. Yet the recognition of the 
superior attractions of the Divine can never be for all 
alike. For the souls still chained to Matter in the In- 
stinctive sphere, for the majority even of the Abstrac- 
tives, the allurements of the impermanent world must 
continue to be insuperable. It is only the minority who 
possess the courage to endure what follows every sin- 
cere movement of separation from the Material. The 



Ixxviii Introduction. 

latter, though in one sense but a condition of Spirit, is 
in its lower forms hostile to Spirit, and it resents its 
renunciation by the few who elect to enter the Path. 
Instinctive Man not only deliberatel}' prefers his inferi- 
ority, but regards with positive enmit}' all who evince a 
desire to ascend in the scale of existence. This enmity 
is in part automatic and literally instinctive, and resem- 
bles the resistance which an air-breathing creature offers 
to immersion in the water. Instinctive Man cannot 
breathe nor live in the rarified atmosphere of the Di- 
vine, and feeling this he fights with all his strength 
against ever}' attempt to raise him to that uninhabitable 
sphere. The Path once chosen, therefore, the pilgrim 
must make his account with persecution and scorn and 
ill-feeling. The world will not let him go at all will- 
ingl}', and if he tear himself away will surelj- follow 
him with its sharp displeasure. 

These two, however, — Wilfrid and Minna, — were, 
as Seraphita knows, prepared by previous incarnations 
to take the step which should separate them from the 
world ; and her final task is the application of the stimu- 
lus which shall determine them in entering upon their 
new and arduous career. As he listens to the se- 
raphic eloquence of the m3-sterious being he has in vain 
tried to entangle in the meshes of an earthly love, Wil- 
frid feels his carnal impulses dying, and a purer, loftier 
aspiration takes their place. For the first time he 
begins to comprehend who and what Seraphita is. For 
the first time he is made to perceive the delusive char- 
acter of his dreams of earthly glory and magnificence. 



Introduction. Ixxix 

For the first time, also, he looks upon the human girl 
beside him with a feeling of respect and sympathy-, and 
is drawn toward her by the attraction of a common 
yearning after the higher life. Then the work of Sera- 
phita on the plane of humauitj- is finished, and in a 
final burst of rapture and adoration her spirit breaks 
the last fragile bonds uniting it to the body, and she 
rises into the celestial spheres to receive judgment, 
reward, whatever is awaiting her. The final chapter, 
entitled "The Assumption" by Balzac, is an exqui- 
sitely imagined vision. Wilfrid and Minna, kneeling 
by the body of Seraphita, are rapt into the heavens. 
For a time their spirits are permitted to leave their 
shells and traverse the lower fields of space, whence 
they are enabled to witness the splendor and majesty 
of their late companion's divine initiation. There is no 
need to follow or interpret this closing scene. It is 
only necessary to say that it fitly concludes a marvel- 
lous work ; that notwithstanding the unavoidable em- 
ployment of some conventional forms, the elevation, 
nobilit}-, solemnity, and beauty of the whole picture 
render it a literary masterpiece, scarcely equalled and 
not surpassed by the most glowing conceptions of the 
greatest mj'stical poets. 

So ends Balzac's philosophical trilogy. The human 
imagination, stretched to the utmost in sustaining these 
last and loftiest creations, can proceed no farther. The 
author has traced the evolution of the spirit from the 
natural to the divine world. Beyond the threshold of 
the latter it is not given to incarnated souls to pene- 



j^xx Introduction. 

trate save in vision, but the path which leads upward 
has been indicated with equal skill and subtlety, and 
some intimation has been given of the glories which 
attend translation to the celestial sphere. As a literary 
experiment " Seraphita " stands alone. It is bold, — 
some may think even to rashness, — but its beauty and 
spirituality must be admitted, and it crowns a diffi- 
cult and laborious enterprise finely, harmoniously, and 

majestically. 

George Frederic Parsons. 



SERAPHITA. 



SERAPHITUS. 

As the eye glances over a map of the coasts of 
Norway, can the imagination fail to marvel at their 
fantastic indentations and serrated edges, l ike a gr an- 
ite lacg j^ against which the surges of the North Sea 
roar incessantly? Who has not dreamed of the ma- 
jestic sights ever to be seen on those beachless shores, 
of that multitude of creeks and inlets and little baj's, no 
two of them alike, yet all trackless abysses? We may 
almost fancy that Nature took pleasure in recording by 
ineffaceable hieroglyphics the symbol of Norwegian life, 
bestowing on these coasts the conformation of a fish's 
spine, fishery being the staple commerce of the countr}', 
and well-nigh the only means of living of the hardy 
men who cling like tufts of lichen to the arid cliffs. 
Here, through fourteen degrees of longitude, barely 
£!even hundred thousand souls maintain existence. 
IChanks to perils devoid of glory, to year-long snows 
M'hich clothe the Norwa}' peaks and guard them from 
J profaning foot of traveller, these sublime beauties are 

1 



J 



2 Seraphita. 

virgin still ; they will be seen to harmonize with human 
phenomena, also virgin — at least to poetr}- — which 
here took place, the history of which it is our purpose 
to relate. 

If one of these inlets, mere fissures to the ej'es of 
the eider-ducks, is wide enough for the sea not to freeze 
between the prison-walls of rock against which it surges, 
the country -people call the little bay a_y?orc?, — a word 
which geographers of every nation have adopted into 
their respective languages. Though a certain resem- 
blance exists among all these fiords, each has its own 
characteristics. The sea has everywhere forced its way 
as through a breach, yet the rocks about each fissure 
are diversel}' rent, and their tumultuous precipices defy 
the rules of geometric law. Here the scarp is dentelled 
like a saw ; there the narrow ledges barely allow the 
snow to lodge or the noble crests of the Northern pines 
to spread themselves ; farther on, some convulsion of 
Nature ma}' have rounded a coquettish curve into a. 
lovel}' valley flanked in rising terraces with black- 
plumed pines. Truh' we are tempted to call this land 
the Switzerland of Ocean. 

Midway between Trondhjem and Christiansand lies 
an inlet called the Strom-fiord. If the Strom-fiord is 
not the loveliest of these rocky landscapes, it has the 
merit of displaj'ing the terrestrial grandeurs of Norway, 
and of enshrining the scenes of a history that is indeedx 
celestial. 

The general outline of the Strom-fiord seems at fir£-t 
sight to be that of a funnel washed out hy the sea... 



Seraphita. 3 

The passage which the waves have forced present to 
the eye an image of the eternal struggle between old 
Ocean and the granite rock, — two creations of equal 
power, one through inertia, the other b}' ceaseless mo- 
tion. Reefs of fantastic shape run out on either side, 
and bar the way of ships and forbid their entrance. 
The intrepid sons of Norwa}' cross these reefs on foot, 
springing from rock to rock, undismayed at the abyss — 
a hundred fathoms deep and only six feet wide — which 
3'awns beneath them. Here a tottering block of gneiss 
falUng athwart two rocks gives an uncertain footway; 
there the hunters or the fishermen, carrying their loads, 
have flung the stems of fir-trees in guise of bridges, 
to join the projecting reefs, around and beneath which 
the surges roar^ incessantly. This dangerous entrance 
to the little bay bears obliquely to the right with a 
serpentine movement, and there encounters a moun- 
tain rising some twenty-five hundred feet above sea- 
level, the base of which is a vertical palisade of solid 
rock more than a mile and a half long, the inflexible 
granite nowhere 3'ielding to clefts or undulations until 
it reaches a height of two hundred feet above the 
water. Rushing violently in, the sea is driven back 
with equal violence by the inert force of the mountain 
to the opposite shore, gently curved by the spent force 
of the retreating waves. 

The fiord is closed at the upper end by a vast gneiss 
formation crowned with forests, down which a river 
plunges in cascades, becomes a torrent when the snows 
are melting, spreads into a sheet of waters, and then 



4 Seraphita. 

falls with a roar into the bay, — vomiting as it does so 
the hoary pines and the aged larches washed down 
from the forests and scarce seen amid the foam. These 
trees plunge headlong into the fiord and reappear after 
a time on the surface, clinging together and forming 
islets which float ashore on the beaches, where the 
inhabitants of a village on the left bank of the Strom- 
fiord gather them up, split, broken (though sometimes 
whole), and alwaj's stripped of bark and branches. 
The mountain which receives at its base the assaults 
of Ocean, and at its summit the buffeting of the wild 
North wind, is called the Falberg. Its crest, wrapped 
at all seasons in a mantle of snow and ice, is the 
sharpest peak of Norway ; its proximit}' to the pole 
produces, at the height of eighteen hundred feet, a 
degree of cold equal to that of the highest mountains 
of the globe. The summit of this rocky mass, rising 
sheer from the fiord on one side, slopes gradually 
downward to the east, where it joins the declivities of 
the Sieg and forms a series of terraced valleys, the 
chilly temperature of which allows no gi'owth but that 
of shrubs and stunted trees. 

The upper end of the fiord, where the waters enter it 
as they come down from the forest, is called the Sieg- 
dahlen, — a word which may be held to mean " the shed- 
ding of the Sieg," — the river itself receiving that name. 
The curving shore opposite to the face of the Falberg 
is the valley of Jarvis, — a smiling scene overlooked by 
hills clothed with firs, birch-trees, and larches, mingled 
with a few oaks and beeches, the richest coloring of alJ 



Seraphita. 5 

the varied tapestries which Nature in these northern 
regions spreads upon the surface of her rugged rocks. 
The e3e can readily mark the line where the soil, 
warmed by the rays of the sun, bears cultivation and 
shows the native growth of the Norwegian flora. Here 
the expanse of the fiord is broad enough to allow the 
sea, dashed back by the Falberg, to spend its expiring 
force in gentle murmurs upon the lower slope of these 
hills, — a shore bordered with finest sand, strewn with 
mica and sparkling pebbles, porphyry, and marbles of 
a thousand tints, brought from Sweden by the river 
floods, together with ocean waifs, shells, and flowers 
of the sea driven in by tempests, whether of the Pole 
or Tropics. 

At the foot of the hills of Jarvis lies a village of some 
two hundred wooden houses, where an isolated popula- 
tion lives like a swarm of bees in a forest, without 
increasing or diminishing ; vegetating happily, while 
wringing their means of living from the breast of a 
stern Nature. The almost unknown existence of the 
little hamlet is readily accounted for. Few of its in- 
habitants were bold enough to risk their lives among 
the reefs to reach the deep-sea fishing, — the staple in- 
dustry of Norwegians on the least dangerous portions 
of their coast. The fish of the fiord were numerous 
enough to suffice, in part at least, for the sustenance 
of the inhabitants ; the valley pastures provided milk 
and butter ; a certain amount of fruitful, well-tilled soil 
yielded rye and hemp and vegetables, which necessity 
taught the people to protect against the severity of 



6 Seraphita. 

the cold and the fleeting but terrible heat of the sun 
with the shrewd ability which Norwegians display in 
the two-fold struggle. The difficulty of communication 
with the outer world, either by land where the roads 
are impassable, or by sea where none but tiny boats 
can thread their way through the maritime defiles that 
guard the entrance to the bay, hinder these people from 
growing rich by the sale of their timber. It would cost 
enormous sums to either blast a channel out to sea or 
construct a way to the interior. The roads from Chris- 
tiana to Trondhjem all turn toward the Strom-fiord, and 
cross the Sieg by a bridge some score of miles above its 
fall into the bay. The country to the north, between 
Jarvis and Trondhjem, is covered with impenetrable 
forests, while to the south the Falberg is nearl}- as 
much separated from Christiana by inaccessible preci- 
pices. The village of Jarvis might perhaps have com- 
municated with the interior of Norway and Sweden by 
the river Sieg ; but to do this and to be thus brought 
into contact with civilization, the Strom-fiord needed 
the presence of a man of genius. Such a man did 
actuall}' appear there, — a poet, a Swede of great reli- 
gious fervor, who died admiring, even reverencing this 
region as one of the noblest works of the Creator. 

Minds endowed by study with an inward sight, 
and whose quick perceptions bring before the soul, 
as though painted on a canvas, the contrasting scen- 
ery of this universe, will now apprehend the general 
features of the Strom- fiord. They alone, perhaps, can 
thread their way through the tortuous channels of the 



Seraphita. 7 

reef, or flee with the battling waves to the everlasting 
rebuff of the Falberg whose white peaks mingle with 
the vaporous clouds of the pearl-gra}- sky, or watch 
with delight the curving sheet of waters, or hear the 
rushing of the Sieg as it hangs for an instant in long 
fillets and then falls over a picturesque abatis of noble 
trees toppled confusedly together, sometimes upright, 
sometimes half-sunken beneath the rocks. It ma}' be 
that such minds alone can dwell upon the smiling 
scenes nestling among the lower hills of Jarvis ; where 
the luscious Northern vegetables spring up in families, 
in myriads, where the white birches bend, graceful as 
maidens, where colonnades of beeches rear their boles 
moss}' with the growths of centuries, where shades 
of green contrast, and white clouds float amid the 
blackness of the distant pines, and tracts of many- 
tinted crimson and purple shrubs are shaded end- 
lessly ; in short, where blend all colors, all perfumes 
of a flora whose wonders are still ignored. Widen 
the boundaries of this limited amphitheatre, spring 
upward to the clouds, lose yourself among the rocks 
where the seals are lying and even then 3'our thought 
cannot compass the wealth of beauty nor the poetr}' 
of this Norwegian coast. Can ^ur thou ght be a s 
vast as^JJifi, ocg an t hat bounds it? as weird as the 
fantastic forms drawn by these forests,"1these clouds, 
these shadowSj__thsaeIcEangierul lights? 

Do you see above the meadows on that lowest slope 
which undulates around the higher hills of Jarvis two 
or three hundred houses roofed with "noever," a sort 



8 Seraphita. 

of thatch made of birch-bark, — frail houses, long and 
low, looking like silk-worms on a mulberry-leaf tossed 
hither by the winds? Above these humble, peaceful 
dwellings stands the church, built with a simplicity 
in keeping with the poverty of the villagers. A grave- 
yard surrounds the chancel, and a little farther on 
you see the parsonage. Higher up, on a projection 
of the mountain is a dwelling-house, the only one of 
stone ; for which reason the inhabitants of the village 
call it " the Swedish Castle." In fact, a wealthy 
Swede settled in Jarvis about thirty years before this 
history begins, and did his best to ameliorate its con- 
dition. This little house, certainly not a castle, built 
with the intention of leading the inhabitants to build 
others like it, was noticeable for its solidity and 
for the wall that inclosed it, a rare thing in Norway 
where, notwithstanding the abundance of stone, wood 
alone is used for all fences, even those of fields. This 
Swedish house, thus protected against the climate, 
stood on rising ground in the centre of an immense 
courtj-ard. The windows were sheltered by those 
projecting pent- house roofs supported by squared 
trunks of trees which give so patriarchal an air to 
Northern dwellings. From beneath them the 63-6 
could see the savage nudit}' of the Falberg, or com- 
pare the infinitude of the open sea with the tin}- drop 
of water in the foaming fiord ; the ear could hear 
the flowing of the Sieg, whose white sheet far away 
looked motionless as it fell into its granite cup edged 
for miles around with glaciers, — in short, from this 



Seraphita. 9 

vantage ground the whole landscape whereon our simple 
yet superhuman drama was about to be enacted could 
be seen and noted. 

The winter of 1799-1800 was one of the most severe 
ever known to Europeans. The Norwegian sea was 
frozen in all the fiords, where, as a usual thing, the 
violence of the surf kept the ice from forming. A 
wind, whose effects were like those of the Spanish 
levanter, swept the ice of the Strom-fiord, driving 
the snow to the upper end of the gulf. Seldom in- 
deed could the people of Jarvis see the mirror of 
frozen waters reflecting the colors of the sky ; a won- 
drous sight in the bosom of these mountains when all 
other aspects of nature are levelled beneath succes- 
sive sheets of snow, and crests and valle3's are alike 
mere folds of the vast mantle flung by winter across 
a landscape at once so mournfully dazzling and so 
monotonous. The falling volume of the Sieg, sud- 
denl}' frozen, formed an immense arcade beneath which 
the inhabitants might have crossed under shelter from 
the blast had any dared to risk themselves inland. 
But the dangers of every step away from their own 
surroundings kept even the boldest hunters in their 
homes, afraid lest the narrow paths along the preci- 
pices, the clefts and fissures among the rocks, might 
be unrecognizable beneath the snow. 

Thus it was that no human creature gave life to 
the white desert where Boreas reigned, his voice alone 
resounding at distant intervals. The sky, nearly al- 
ways gra}', gave tones of polished steel to the ice of 



10 Seraphita. 

the fiord. Perchance some ancient eider-duck crossed 
the expanse, trusting to the warm down beneath which 
dream, in other lands, the luxurious rich, little knowing 
of the dangers through which their luxury has come 
to them. Like the Bedouin of the desert who darts 
alone across the sands of Africa, the bird is neither 
seen nor heard ; the torpid atmosphere, deprived of 
its electrical conditions, echoes neither the whirr of 
its wings nor its joyous notes. Besides, what human 
eye was strong enough to bear the gUtter of those 
pinnacles adorned with sparkling crystals, or the sharp 
reflections of the snow, iridescent on the summits in 
the rays of a pallid sun which infrequently appeared, 
like a dying man seeking to make known that he still 
lives. Often, when the flocks of gray clouds, driven 
in squadrons athwart the mountains and among the 
tree-tops, hid the sky with their triple veils Earth, 
lacking the celestial lights, lit herself by herself. 

Here, then, we meet the majesty of Cold, seated 
eternally at the pole in that regal silence which is the 
attribute of all absolute monarchy. Ever}- extreme 
principle carries with it an appearance of negation and 
the symptoms of death ; for is not life the struggle 
of two forces? Here in this Northern nature nothing 
lived. One sole power — the unproductive power of ice 
— reigned unchallenged. The roar of the open sea no 
longer reached the deaf, dumb inlet, where during one 
short season of the year Nature made haste to produce 
the slender harvests necessary for the food of the pa- 
tient people. A few tall pine-trees lifted their black 



Seraphita. 11 

pyramids garlanded with snow, and the form of their 
long branches and depending shoots completed the 
mourning garments of those solemn heights. 

Each household gathered in its chimnej'-corner, in 
houses carefully closed from the outer air, and well 
supplied with biscuit, melted butter, dried fish, and 
other provisions laid in for the seven-months winter. 
The very smoke of these dwellings was hardly seen, 
half-hidden as the}'' were beneath the snow, against the 
weight of which they were protected b}' long planks 
reaching from the roof and fastened at some distance 
to solid blocks on the ground, forming a covered way 
around each building. 

During these terrible winter months the women spun 
and dyed the woollen stuffs and the linen fabrics with 
which they clothed their families, while the men read, 
or fell into those endless meditations which have given 
birth to so many profound theories, to the mystic 
dreams of the North, to its beliefs, to its studies (so 
full and so complete in one science, at least, sounded as 
with a plummet) , to its manners and its morals, half- 
monastic, which force the soul to react and feed upon 
itself and make the Norwegian peasant a being apart 
among the peoples of Europe. 

Such was the condition of the Strom-fiord in the first 
3'ear of the nineteenth centur}' and about the middle of 
the month of May. 

On a morning when the sun burst forth upon this 
landscape, lighting the fires of the ephemeral diamonds 
produced by crystallizations of the snow and ice, two 



12 Seraphita. 

beings crossed the fiord and flew along the base of 
the Falberg, rising thence from ledge to ledge toward 
the summit. What were the^"? human creatures, or 
two arrows? The}' might have been taken for eider- 
ducks sailing in consort before the wind. Not the 
boldest hunter nor the most superstitious fisherman 
would have attributed to human beings the power to 
move safel}^ along the slender lines traced beneath the 
snow by the granite ledges, where yet this couple glided 
with the terrifying dexterity of somnambulists who, for- 
getting their own weight and the dangers of the slight- 
est deviation, hurrj' along a ridge-pole and keep their 
equilibrium by the power of some mysterious force. 

" Stop me, Seraphitus," said a pale young girl, " and 
let me breathe. I look at 3'ou, you only, while scaling 
these walls of the gulf; otherwise, what would become 
of me? I am such a feeble creature. Do I tire you? " 
" No," said the being on whose arm she leaned. 
"But let us go on, Minna; the place where we are is 
not firm enough to stand on." 

Once more the snow creaked sharpl}" beneath the long 
boards fastened to their feet, and soon the}' reached the 
upper terrace of the first ledge, clearly defined upon the 
flank of the precipice. The person whom Minna had 
addressed as Seraphitus threw his weight upon his right 
heel, arresting the plank — six and a half feet long and 
narrow as the foot of a child — which was fastened to 
his boot by a double thong of leather. This plank, two 
inches thick, was covered with reindeer skin, which 
bristled against the snow when the foot was raised, and 



SerapJiita. IS 

served to stop the wearer. Seraphitus drew in his left 
foot, furnished with another " skee," which was only 
two feet long, turned swiftl}' where he stood, caught his 
timid companion in his arms, lifted her in spite of the 
long boards upon her feet, and placed her on a project- 
ing rock from which he brushed the snow with his 
pelisse. 

"You are safe there, Minna; you can tremble at 
3'our ease." 

"We are a third of the way up the Ice-Cap," she 
said, looking at the peak to which she gave the popular 
name b}' which it is known in Norway ; " I can hardly 
believe it." 

Too much out of breath to say more, she smiled at 
Seraphitus, who, without answering, laid his hand upon 
her heart and listened to its sounding throbs, rapid as 
those of a frightened bird. 

" It often beats as fast when I run," she said. 

Seraphitus inclined his head with a gesture that was 
neither coldness nor indifference, and yet, despite the 
grace which made the movement almost tender, it none 
the less bespoke a certain negation, which in a woman 
would have seemed an exquisite coquetry. Seraphitus 
clasped the j'oung girl in his arms. Minna accepted the 
caress as an answer to her words, continuing to gaze at 
him. As he raised his head, and threw back with im- 
patient gesture the golden masses of his hair to free his 
brow, he saw an expression of joy in the eyes of his 
companion. 

" Yes, Minna," he said in a voice whose paternal 



14 Seraphita. 

accents were charming from the lips of a being who 
was still adolescent, "Keep yonv ejes on me; do not 
look below 3'ou." 

" Why not?" she asked. 

*' You wish to know why? then look ! " 

Minna glanced quickly at her feet and cried out 
suddenl}'^ like a child who sees a tiger. The awful sen- 
sation of ab3'sses seized her ; one glance sufficed to 
comnmnicate its contagion. The fiord, eager for food, 
bewildered her with its loud voice ringing in her ears, 
interposing between herself and life as though to de- 
vour her more surely. From the crown of her head 
to her feet and along her spine an icy shudder ran ; 
then suddenly intolerable heat suffused her nerves, 
beat in her veins and overpowered her extremities 
with electric shocks like those of the torpedo. Too 
feeble to resist, she felt herself drawn b}* a m3'sterious 
power to the depths below, wherein she fancied that she 
saw some monster belching its venom, a monster whose 
magnetic eyes were charming her, whose open jaws 
appeared to craunch their prey before they seized it. 

" I die, my Seraphitus, loving none but thee," she 
said, making a mechanical movement to fling herself 
into the abyss. 

Seraphitus breathed softly on her forehead and eyes. 
Suddenly, like a traveller relaxed after a bath, Minna 
forgot these keen emotions, already dissipated b}' that 
caressing breath which penetrated her bodj' and filled 
it with balsamic essences as quickl}' as the breath itself 
had crossed the air. 



i 



SerapJiita. 15 

*' Who ai-t thou?" she said, with a feeling of gentle 
terror. "Ah, but I know! thou art my life. How 
canst thou look into that gulf and not die ? " she added 
presently. 

Seraphitus left her clinging to the granite rock and 
placed himself at the edge of the narrow platform on 
which they stood, whence his eyes plunged to the 
depths of the fiord, defying its dazzling invitation. 
His body did not tremble, his brow was white and calm 
as that of a marble statue, — an abyss facing an abyss. /I 

"Seraphitus! dost thou not love me? come back!" 
she cried. "Thy danger renews my terror. Who art 
' thou to have such superhuman power at thy age?" she 
asked as she felt his arms inclosing her once more. 

" But, Minna," answered Seraphitus, " you look fear- 
lessly at greater spaces far than that." 

Then with raised finger, this strange being pointed 
upward to the blue dome, which parting clouds left 
clear above their heads, where stars could be seen 
in open day by virtue of atmospheric laws as yet 
unstudied. 

" But what a difierence ! " she answered smiling. 

" You are right," he said ; " we are born to stretch 
upward to the skies. Our native land, like the face of 
a mother, cannot terrify her children." 

His voice vibrated through the being of his com- 
panion, who made no reply. 

" Come ! let us go on," he said. 

The pair darted forward along tbe narrow paths 
traced back and forth upon the mountain, skimming 



16 SerapMta. 

from terrace to terrace, from line to line, with the 
rapidity of a barb, that bird of the desert. Presently 
they reached an open space, carpeted with turf and 
moss and flowers, where no foot had ever trod. 

"Oh, the pretty saeter!" cried Minna, giving to 
the upland meadow its Norwegian name. " But how 
comes it here, at such a height?" 

" Vegetation ceases here, it is true," said Seraphitus. 
"These few plants and flowers are due to that shelter- 
« ing rock which protects the meadow from the polar 
winds. Put that tuft in your bosom, Minna," he 
added, gathering a flower, — " that balmy creation 
which no eye has ever seen ; keep the solitary match- 1 
less flower in memory of this one matchless morning of ' 
your life. You will find no other guide to lead 3'ou 
again to this saeter." 

So saying, he gave her the hybrid plant his falcon eye 
had seen amid the tufts of gentian acaulis and saxi- 
frages, — a marvel, brought to bloom by the breath of 1 
angels. With girlish eagerness Minna seized the tufted 
plant of transparent green, vivid as emerald, which was 
formed of little leaves rolled trumpet-wise, brown at the 
smaller end but changing tint by tint to their delicately 
notched edges, which were green. These leaves were so 
tightly pressed together that they seemed to blend and 
form a mat or cluster of rosettes. Here and there from 
this green ground rose pure white stars edged with a 
line of gold, and from their throats came crimson anthers 
but no pistils. A fragrance, blended of roses and of 
orange-blossoms, yet ethereal and fugitive, gave some- 



Seraphita. 17 

thing as it were celestial to that mysterious flower, 
which Seraphitus sadh' contemplateci, as though it ut- 
tered plaintive thoughts which he alone could under- 
stand. But to Minna this mysterious phenomenon 
seemed a mere caprice of nature giving to stone the 
freshness, softness, and perfume of plants. 

"Why do you call it matchless? can it not repro- 
duce itself ? she asked, looking at Seraphitus, who 
colored and turned away. 

" Let us sit down," he said presently ; " look below 
you, Minna. See ! At this height you will have no 
fear. The abyss is so far beneath us that we no longer 
have a sense of its depths ; it acquires the perspective 
uniformity of ocean, the vagueness of clouds, the soft 
coloring of the skv. See, the ice of the fiord is a tur- 
quoise, the dark pine forests are mere threads of brown ; 
for us all abysses should be thus adorned." 

Seraphitus said the words with that fervor of tone 
and gesture seen and known only by those who have 
ascended the highest mountains of the globe, — a fervor 
so involuntarih' acquired that the haughtiest of men 
is forced to regard his guide as a brother, forgetting his 
own superior station till he descends to the valleys and 
the abodes of his kind. Seraphitus unfastened the skees 
from Minna's feet, kneeling before her. The girl did not 
notice him, so absorbed was she in the marvellous view 
now offered of her native land, whose rocky outlines 
could here be seen at a glance. She felt, with deep emo- 
tion, the solemn permanence of those frozen summits, 
to which words could give no adequate utterance. 

2 



18 Seraphita. 

"We have not come here by human power alone," 
she said, clasping her hands. "But perhaps I dream." 

" You think that facts the causes of which you can- J/ 
not perceive are supernatural," replied her companion. ' 

" Your replies," she said, " always bear the stamp 
of some deep thought. When I am near you I under- 
stand all things without an effort. Ah, I am free ! " 

" If so, you will not need your skees," he answered. 

" Oh ! " she said ; "I who would fain unfasten yours 
and kiss your feet ! " 

"Keep such words for Wilfrid," said Seraphitus, 
gently. 

" Wilfrid ! " cried Minna angrily ; then, softening as 
she glanced at her companion's face and trying, but in 
vain, to take his hand, she added, " You are never 
angry, never ; you are so hopelessly perfect in all 
things." 

" From which you conclude that I am unfeeling." 

Minna was startled at this lucid interpretation of her 
thought. 

"You prove to me, at an}^ rate, that we understand 
each other," she said, with the grace of a loving 
woman. 

Seraphitus softly shook his head and looked sadly 
and gently at her. 

" You, who know all things," said Minna, " tell me 
why it is that the timidity I felt below is over now 
that I have mounted higher. Why do I dare to look 
at 3-ou for the first time face to face, while lower down 
T scarcely dared to give a furtive glance ? " 



Seraphita. 19 

*• Perhaps because we are withdrawn from the petti-) f 
ness of earth," he answered, unfastening his pelisse. 

" Never, never have I seen j-ou so beautiful ! " cried 
Minna, sitting down on a moss}' rock and losing herself 
in contemplation of the being who had now guided 
her to a part of the peak hitherto supposed to be 
inaccessible. 

Never, in truth, had Seraphitus shone with so bright 
a radiance, — the only word that can render the illu- 
mination of his face and the aspect of his whole person. 
Was this splendor due to the lustre which the pure air 
of mountains and the reflections of the snow give to the 
complexion ? "Was it produced by the inward impulse 
which excites the bod}' at the instant when exertion is 
arrested? Did it come from the sudden contrast be- 
tween the glory of the sun and the darkness of the 
clouds, from whose shadow the charming couple had 
just emerged? Perhaps to all these causes we may add 
the effect of a phenomenon, one of the noblest which 
human nature has to offer. If some able physiologist 
had studied this being (who, judging by the pride on 
his brow and the lightning in his eyes seemed a 3'outh 
of about seventeen years of age), and if the student 
had sought for the springs of that beaming life beneath 
the whitest skin that ever the North bestowed upon her 
offspring, he would undoubtedly have believed either in 
some phosphoric fluid of the nerves shining beneath the 
cuticle, or in the constant presence of an inward lumi- 
nary, whose rays issued through the being of Seraphitus 
like a light through an alabaster vase. Soft and slen- 



20 Serapliita. 

* der as were his hands, ungloved to remove his compan- 
ion's snow-shoes, they seemed possessed of a strength 
equal to that which the Creator gave to the diaphanous 
tentacles of the crab. The fire darting from his vivid 
glance seemed to struggle with the beams of the sun, 
not to take but to give them light. His body, slim and 
delicate as that of a woman, gave evidence of one of 
those natures which are feeble apparently, but whose 
strength equals their will, rendering them at times 
powerful. Of medium height, Seraphitus appeared to 
grow in stature as he turned fully round and seemed 
about to spring upward. His hair, curled by a fairj-'s 
hand and waving to the breeze, increased the illusion 
produced by this aerial attitude ; yet his bearing, wholly 
without conscious effort, was the result far more of a 
jl moral phenomenon than of a corporal habit. 

Minna's imagination seconded this illusion, under the 
dominion of which all persons would assuredly have 
fallen, — an illusion which gave to Seraphitus the ap- 
pearance of a vision dreamed of in happy sleep. No 
known t3'pe conveys an image of that form so majes- 
tically male to Minna, but which to the ej'es of a man 
would have eclipsed in womanly grace the fairest of 
Raphael's creations. That painter of heaven has ever 
put a tranquil jo}', a loving sweetness, into the lines of 
his angelic conceptions ; but what soul, unless it con- 
templated Seraphitus himself, could have conceived 
the ineffable emotions imprinted on his face? Who 
would have divined, even in the dreams of artists, 
where all things become possible, the shadow cast by 



Seraphita. 21 

some mysterious awe upon that brow, shining with in- 
tellect, which seemed to question Heaven and to pity 
Earth? The head hovered awhile disdainfully, as some 
majestic bird whose cries reverberate on the atmos- 
phere, then bowed itself resignedly, like the turtledove 
uttering soft notes of tenderness in the depths of the 
silent woods. His complexion was of marvellous white- 
ness, which brought out vividly the coral lips, the 
brown eyebrows, and the silken lashes, the only colors 
that trenched upon the paleness of that face, whose 
perfect regularity did not detract from the grandeur of 
the sentiments expressed in it ; nay, thought and emo- 
tion were reflected there, without hindrance or violence, 
with the majestic and natural gravit}' which we delight 
in attributing to superior beings. That face of purest 
marble expressed in all things strength and peace. 

Minna rose to take the hand of Seraphitus, hoping 
thus to draw him to her, and to lay on that seductive 
brow a kiss given more from admiration than from 
love ; but a glance at the young man's eyes, which 
pierced her as a ray of sunlight penetrates a prism, 
paralyzed the young girl. She felt, but without com- 
prehending, a gulf between them ; then she turned awaj'' 
her head and wept. Suddenly a strong hand seized her 
by the waist and a soft voice said to her: " Come ! " 
She obeyed, resting her head, suddenly revived, upon 
the heart of her companion, who, regulating his step to 
hers with gentle and attentive conformit}-, led her to a 
spot whence they could see the radiant glories of the 
polar Nature. 



22 Seraphita. 

"Before I look, before I listen to you, tell me, 
Seraphitus, why you repulse me. Have I displeased 
you? and how? tell me! I want nothing for myself; 
I would that all my earthly goods were 3'ours, for the 
riches of m}' heart are yours alread}'. I would that 
light came to my eyes only through j'our eyes just as 
my thought is born of your thought. I should not 
then fear to offend you, for I should give you back the 
echoes of 3'our soul, the words of 3'our heart, day by 
day, — as we render to God the meditations with which 
his spirit nourishes our minds. I would be thine 
alone." 

' ' Minna, a constant desire is that which shapes our 
future. Hope on ! But if j'ou would be pure in heart 
mingle the idea of the All-Powerful with j'our affections 
here below ; then yoM will love all creatures, and your 
heart will rise to heights indeed." 

"I will do all you tell me," she answered, lifting her 
ej'es to his with a timid movement. 

" I cannot be j-our companion," said Seraphitus 
sadh". 

He seemed to repress some thoughts, then stretched 
his arms towards Christiana, just visible like a speck on 
the horizon and said : — 

"Look!" 

" We are very small," she said. 

"Yes, but we become great through feeling and|| 
through intellect," answered Seraphitus. "With us, 
and us alone, Minna, begins the knowledge of things ; 
the little that we learn of the laws of Hie visible world 



tSerapJiita. 23 

enables us to apprehend the immensit}" of the worlds ff 
invisible. I know not if the time has come to speak 
thus to you, but I would, ah, I would communicate 
to 3'ou the flame of m}- hopes I Perhaps we ma}- 
one da}- be together in the world where Love never 
dies." 

" Why not here and now?" she said, murmuring. 

" Nothing is stable here," he said, disdainfully. 
"The passing joys of earthly- love are gleams which 
reveal to certain souls the coming of jo3-s more dura- 
ble ; just as the discovery of a single law of nature 
leads certain privileged beings to a conception of the 
system of the universe. Our fleeting happiness here 
below is the forerunning proof of another and a per- 
fect happiness, just as the earth, a fragment of the 
world, attests the universe. We cannot measure the 
vast orbit of the Divine thought of which we are but 
an atom as small as God is great ; but we can feel its 
vastness, we can kneel, adore, and wait. Men ever' 
mislead themselves in science by not perceiving that 
all things on their globe are related and co-ordinated 
to the general evolution, to a constant movement and 
production which bring with them, necessarily, both ad- 
vancement and an End. Man himself is not a finished t'« 
creation ; if he were, God would not Be." 

*' How is it that in th}^ short life thou hast found the 
time to learn so many thmgs ? " said the young girl. 

" I remember," he replied. 

" Thou art nobler than all else I see." • 

" We are the noblest of God's great works. Has He 



24 Seraphita. 

not given us the faculty of reflecting on Nature ; of * 
gathering it within us bj thought ; of making it a 
footstool and stepping-stone from and by which to rise ' 
to Him? We love according to the greater or the 1 
lesser portion of heaven our souls contain. But do 
not be unjust, Minna ; behold the magnificence spread | 
before you. Ocean expands at yonv feet like a carpet ; 
the mountains resemble amphitheatres ; heaven's ether 
is above them like the arching folds of a stage curtain. 
/ Here we may breathe the thoughts of God, as it were 

' t like a perfume. See ! the angvy billows which engulf 
the ships laden with men seem to us, where we are, 
mere bubbles ; and if we raise our e3'es and look above, 
all there is blue. Behold that diadem of stars ! Here 

. the tints of earthl}^ impressions disappear ; standing 
on this nature rarefied by space do yon not feel within 
3'ou something deeper far than mind, grander than 
.enthusiasm, of greater energy than will? Are you 
not conscious of emotions whose interpretation is no 
longer in us? Do you not feel jour pinions? Let 
us praj'." 

Seraphitus knelt down and crossed his hands upon 
his breast, while Minna fell, weeping, on her knees. 
Thus the}' remained for a time, while the azure dome 
above their heads grew larger and strong rays of light 
enveloped them without their knowledge. 

' ' Why dost thou not weep when I weep ? " said 
Minna, in a broken voice. 

J j " They who are all spirit do not weep," replied Sera- 
phitus rising ; " Why should I weep? 1 see no longer 



Seraphita. 26 

human wretchedness. Here, Good appears in all its 
majesty. There, beneath us, I hear the supplications 
and the wailings of that harp of sorrows which vibrates 
in the hands of captive souls. Here, I listen to the 
choir of harps harmonious. There, below, is hope, the 
glorious inception of faith ; but here is faith — it reigns, 
hope realized ! " 

' ' You will never love me ; I am too imperfect ; you 
disdain me," said the young girl. 

" Minna, the violet hidden at the feet of the oak 
whispers to itself : ' The sun does not love me ; he 
comes not.' The sun says : ' If my rays shine upon 
her she will perish, poor flower.' Friend of the flower, he 
sends his beams through the oak leaves, he veils, he tem- 
pers them, and thus the}- color the petals of his beloved. 
I have not veils enough, I fear lest j'ou see me too 
closely ; you would tremble if j'ou knew me better. 
Listen : I have no taste for earthly fruits. Your joys, 
I know them all too well, and, like the sated emperors 
of pagan Rome, I have reached disgust of all things ; 
Jl I have received the gift of vision. Leave me ! abandon 
me!" he murmured, sorrowfully'. 

Seraphitus turned and seated himself on a projecting 
rock, dropping his head upon his breast. 

" Wh}' do you drive me to despair? " said Minna. 

"Go, go I " cried Seraphitus, "I have nothing that 
you want of me. Your love is too earthly for my love. 
Why do 30U not love Wilfrid? Wilfrid is a man, tested 
by passions ; he would clasp you in his vigorous arms 
and make you feel a hand both broad and strong. His 



26 Seraphita. 

hair is black, his eyes are full of human thoughts, his 
heart pours lava in every word he utters ; he could kill 
you with caresses. Let him be your beloved, your 
husband ! Yes, thine be Wilfrid ! " 

Minna wept aloud. 

' ' Dare you say that you do not love him ? " he went 
on, in a voice which pierced her like a dagger. 

" Have mere}', have mere}', my Seraphitus ! " 

' ' Love him, poor child of Earth to which thy destiny 
has indissolubly bound thee," said the strange being, 
beckoning Minna by a gesture, and forcing her to the 
edge of the sseter, whence he pointed downward to a 
scene that might well inspire a young girl full of 
enthusiasm with the fancj' that she stood above this 
earth. 

' ' I longed for a companion to the kingdom of Light ; 
I wished to show 3'ou that morsel of mud, I find 3'ou 
bound to it. Farewell. Remain on earth ; enjo}' through 
the senses ; obey 3'our nature ; turn pale with pallid 
men ; blush with women ; sport with children ; pray 
with the guilt}' ; raise your ej'es to heaven when sor- 
rows overtake you ; tremble, hope, throb in all 3'our 
pulses ; 30U will have a companion ; 30U can laugh and 
weep, and give and receive. I, — I am an exile, far from 
heaven ; a monster, far from earth. I live of m3'self 
and by myself. I feel b3' the spirit ; I breathe through 
m}' brow ; I see by thought ; I die of impatience and 
of longing. No one here below can fulfil m}- desires or 
calm m}- griefs. I have forgotten how to weep. I am 
alone. I resign m3-self, and I wait." 



Seraphita. 27 

Seraphitus looked at the flowery mound on which he 
had seated Minna ; then he turned and faced the 
frowning heights, whose pinnacles were wrapped in 
clouds ; to them he cast, unspoken, the remainder of 
his thoughts. 

"Minna, do j'ou hear those delightful strains?" he 
said after a pause, with the voice of a dove, for the 
eagle's cry was hushed ; " it is like the music of those 
Eolian harps your poets hang in forests and on the 
mountains. Do you see the shadowy figures passing 
among the clouds, the winged feet of those who are 
making ready the gifts of heaven ? The}- bring refresh- 
ment to the soul ; the skies are about to open and shed 
the flowers of spring upon the earth. See, a gleam is 
darting from the pole. Let us fly, let us fly ! It is 
time we go ! " 

In a moment their skees were re fastened, and the 
pair descended the Falberg b}' the steep slopes which 
join the mountain to the valleys of the Sieg. Miracu- 
lous perception guided their course, or, to speak more 
properly, their flight. "When fissures covered with 
snow intercepted them, Seraphitus caught Minna in 
his arms and darted with rapid motion, lightl}' as a 
bird, over the crumbling causeways of the abj'ss. 
Sometimes, while propelling his companion, he devi- 
ated to the right or left to avoid a precipice, a tree, a 
projecting rock, which he seemed to see beneath the 
snow, as an old sailor, familiar with the ocean, discerns 
the hidden reefs by the color, the trend, or the eddying 
of the water. When they reached the paths of the 



28 Seraphita. 

Siegdahlen, where they could fearlessly follow a 
straight line to regain the ice of the fiord, Seraphitus 
stopped Minna. 

" You have nothing to say to me? " he asked. 

" I thought you would rather think alone," she an- 
swered respectfully. 

"Let us hasten, Minette ; it is almost night," he 
said. 

Minna quivered as she heard the voice, now so 
changed, of her guide, — a pure voice, like that of a 
young girl, which dissolved the fantastic dream through 
which she had been passing. Seraphitus seemed to be 
laying aside his male force and the too keen intellect 
that flamed from his eyes. Presentl}^ the charming pair 
glided across the fiord and reached the snow-field which 
divides the shore from the first range of houses ; then, 
hurrying forward as daj'light faded, the}' sprang up 
the hill toward the parsonage, as though they were 
mounting the steps of a great staircase. 

" My father must be anxious," said Minna. 

"No," answered Seraphitus. 

As he spoke the couple reached the porch of the 
humble dwelling where Monsieur Becker, the pastor of 
Jarvis, sat reading while awaiting his daughter for the 
evening meal. 

"Dear Monsieur Becker," said Seraphitus, " I have 
brought Minna back to you safe and sound." 

"Thank you, mademoiselle," said the old man, lay- 
ing his spectacles on his book; "you must be very 
tired." 



Seraphita. 29 

" Oh, no," said Minna, and as she spoke she felt the 
soft breath of her companion on her brow. 

" Dear heart, will you come day after to-morrow 
evening and take tea with me ? " 

"Gladly, dear." 

" Monsieur Becker, yon will bring her, will you 
not?" 

" Yes, mademoiselle." 

Seraphitus inclined his head with a pretty gesture, 
and bowed to the old pastor as he left the house. A 
few moments later he reached the great courtA-ard of 
the Swedish villa. An old servant, over eight}- j-ears 
of age, appeared in the portico bearing a lantern. 
Seraphitus slipped off his snow-shoes with the graceful 
dexterity of a woman, then darting into the salon he 
fell exhausted and motionless on a wide divan covered 
with furs. 

' ' What will you take ? " asked the old man, lighting 
the immensely tall wax-candles that are used in 
Norway. 

" Nothing, David, I am too weary." 

Seraphitus unfastened his pelisse lined with sable, 
threw it over him, and fell asleep. The old servant 
stood for several minutes gazing with loving ej'es at the 
singular being before him, whose sex it would have 
been difficult for any one at that moment to determine. 
Wrapped as he was in a formless garment, which re- 
sembled equally a woman's robe and a man's mantle, 
it was impossible not to fancy that the slender feet 
which hung at the side of the couch were those of % 



30 Seraphita. 

woman, and equally impossible not to note how the 
forehead and the outlines of the head gave evidence of 
power brought to its highest pitch. 

" She suffers, and she will not tell me," thought the 
old man. " She is dying, like a flower wilted by the 
burning sun." 

And the old man wept. 



Seraphita. 31 



n. 

SERAPHITA. 

Later in the evening David re-entered the salon. 

" I know who it is you have come to announce," 
said Seraphita in a sleepy voice. " Wilfrid may 
enter." 

Hearing these words a man suddenl3' presented him- 
self, crossed the room and sat down beside her. 

" My dear Seraphita, are you ill ?" he said. " You 
look paler than usual." 

She turned slowly towards him, tossing back her 
hair like a pretty woman whose aching head leaves her 
no strength even for complaint. 

" I was foolish enough to cross the fiord with Minna," 
she said. "We ascended the Falberg." 

"Do 3'ou mean to kill yourself?" he said with a 
lover's terror. 

" No, my good Wilfrid ; I took the greatest care of 
your Minna." 

Wilfrid struck his hand violently on a table, rose 
» hastily, and made several steps towards the door with 
; an exclamation full of pain ; then he returned and 
seemed about to remonstrate. 

"Why this disturbance if you think me ill?" she 
said. 



32 Seraphita. 

" Forgive me, have mercy ! " he cried, kneeling be- 
side her. " Speak to me harshly if you will ; exact all 
that the cruel fancies of a woman lead yoM to imagine 
I least can bear ; but oh, my beloved, do not doubt my 
love. You take Minna like an axe to hew me down. 
Have mercy ! " 

" Why do 3"ou say these things, my friend, when you 
know that they are useless ? " she replied, with a look 
which grew in the end so soft that Wilfrid ceased to 
behold her eyes, but saw in their place a fluid light, 
the shimmer of which was like the last vibrations of an 
Italian song. 

" Ah ! no man dies of anguish !" he murmured. 

" You are suffering?" she said in a voice whose into- 
nations produced upon his heart the same effect as that 
of her look. " Would I could help jovl ! " 

" Love me as I love 3'ou." 

" Poor Minna ! " she replied. 

" Why am I unarmed ! " exclaimed Wilfrid, violently. 

" You are out of temper," said Seraphita, smiling. 
" Come, have I not spoken to j'ou like those Parisian 
women whose loves you tell of ? " 

Wilfrid sat down, crossed his arms, and looked 
gloomilj' at Seraphita. " I forgive you," he said ; "for 
3'ou know not what j'ou do." 

"You mistake," she replied; "every woman from ff 
the days of Eve does good and evil knowingl}'." IJ 

" I believe it ; " he said. 

' ' I am sure of it, Wilfrid. Our instinct is precisel}' thai 
which makes us perfect. What you men learn, we feel." f f 



Seraphita. 33 

*' Wh}-, then, do you not feel how much I love you?" 

" Because a'Ou do not love me." 

"Good God!" 

"If you did, would j-ou complain of your own 
sufferinsrs? " 

" You are terrible to-night, Seraphita. You are a 
demon." 

"No, but I am gifted with the faculty of compre- 
hending, and it is awful. Wilfrid, sorrow is a lamp 
which illumines life." 

' ' Why did you ascend the Falberg ? " 

" Minna will tell 3"ou. I am too weary to talk. You 
must talk to me, — you who know so much, who have 
learned all things and forgotten nothing ; j'ou who have 
passed through ever}- social test. Talk to me, amuse 
me, I am listening." 

" What can I tell you that you do not know ? Besides, 
the request is ironical. You allow yourself no inter- 
course with social life ; you trample on its conventions, 
its laws, its customs, sentiments, and sciences ; yoxx re- 
duce them all to the proportions such things take when 
viewed by you be3'ond this universe." 

" Therefore you see, my friend, that I am not a 
woman. You do wrong to love me. What ! am I to 
leave the ethereal regions of my pretended strength, 
make myself humbly small, cringe like the hapless 
females of all species, that you may lift me up? and 
then, when I, helpless and broken, ask you for help, 
when I need j'our arm, you will repulse me ! No, we 
can never come to terms." 

3 



34 Seraphita. 

" You are more maliciously unkind to-night than I 
have ever known you." 

"Unkind!" she said, with a look which seemed to 
blend all feelings into one celestial emotion, " no, I am 
ill, I suffer, that is all. Leave me, my friend ; it is 
your manly right. We women should ever please you, 
entertain you, be gay in your presence and have na 
whims save those that amuse you. Come, what shall 
I do for you, friend? Shall I sing, shall I dance, 
though weariness deprives me of the use of voice and 
limbs? — Ah! gentlemen, be we on our deathbeds, we 
j'et must smile to please you ; you call that, methinks, 
your right. Poor women ! I pit}- them. Tell me, j'ou 
who abandon them when they grow old, is it because 
the}' have neither hearts nor souls? Wilfred, I am 
a hundred years old ; leave me ! leave me ! go ta 
Minna ! " 

' ' Oh, my eternal love ! " 

" Do you know the meaning of eternity? Be silent, 
Wilfrid. You desire me, but you do not love me. 
Tell me, do I not seem to you like those coquettish 
Parisian women?" 

"Certainl}^ I no longer find j'ou the pure celestial 
maiden I first saw in the church of Jarvis." 

At these words Seraphita passed her hands across 
her brow, and when she removed them Wilfrid was 
amazed at the saintly expression that overspread her 
face. 

" You are right, my friend," she said ; "I do wrong 
whenever I set my feet upon your earth." 



Seraphita. 35 

"Oh, Seraphita, be my star! stay where yo\x caa 
ever bless me with that clear light ! " 

As he spoke, he stretched forth his hand to take that 
of the young girl, but she withdrew it, neither disdain- 
fully nor in anger. Wilfrid rose abruptly and walked 
to the window that she might not see the tears that rose 
to his eyes. 

" Why do 3'ou weep?" she said. "You are not a 
child, Wilfrid. Come back to me. I wish it. You 
are annoyed if I show just displeasure. You see that 
I am fatigued and ill, yet you force me to think and 
speak, and listen to persuasions and ideas that wearj' 
me. If 3"ou had anj' real perception of my nature, yon 
would have made some music, you would have lulled my 
feelings — but no, you love me for yourself and not for 
myself. " 

The storm which convulsed the young man's heart 
calmed down at these words. He slowly approached 
her, letting his ej'es take in the seductive creature 
who lay exhausted before him, her head resting in her 
hand and her elbow on the couch. 

" You think that I do not love you," she resumed. 
"You are mistaken. Listen to me, Wilfrid. You are 
beginning to know much ; you have suflfered much. 
Let me explain jour thoughts to 3'ou. You wished to 
take my hand just now ; " she rose to a sitting post- 
ure, and her graceful motions seemed to emit light. 
" When a 3'oung girl allows her hand to be taken it is 
as though she made a promise, is it not? and ought she 
not to fulfil it? You well know that I cannot be yours. 



36 SerapTiita. 

A/Two sentiments divide and inspire the love of all the 
// women of the earth. Either they devote themselves to 
suffering, degraded, and criminal beings whom they de- 
sire to console, uplift, redeem ; or they give themselves 
to superior men, sublime and strong, whom they adore 
and seek to comprehend, and by whom they are often 
annihilated. You have been degraded, though now you 
are purified by the fires of repentance, and to-day you 
are once more noble ; but I know myself too feeble 
to be your equal, and too religious to bow before any 
power but that On High. I may refer thus to your 
life, my friend, for we are in the North, among the 
clouds, where all things are abstractions." 

" You stab me, Seraphita, when you speak like this. 
It wounds me to hear j'ou apply the dreadful knowledge 
with which you strip from all things human the proper- 
ties that time and space and form have given them, 
and consider them mathematically in the abstract, as 
geometry treats substances fi*om which it extracts 
solidity." 

" Well, I will respect your wishes, Wilfrid. Let the 
subject drop. Tell me what you think of this bearskin 
rug which my poor David has spread out." 

" It is very handsome." 

" Did you ever see me wear this doucha grekaf 

She pointed to a pelisse made of cashmere and lined 
with the skin of the black fox, — the name she gave it 
signifying "warm to the soul." 

"Do you believe that any sovereign has a fur that 
tan equal it?" she asked- 



Seraphita. 37 

" It is worthy of her who wears it." 

" And whom you think beautiful? " 

" Human words do not apply to her. Heart to heart 
is the onlj- language I can use." 

" Wilfred, you are kind to soothe my griefs with such 
sweet words — which you have said to others." 

"Farewell!" 

" Stay. I love both you and Minna, believe me. To 
me you two are as one being. United thus you can be 
my brother or, if you will, my sister. Marry her ; let 
me see 3'ou both happy before I leave this world of trial 
and of pain. My God ! the simplest of women obtain 
what they ask of a lover ; they whisper ' Hush ! ' and 
he is silent; 'Die' and he dies; 'Love me afar' and 
he sta^-s at a distance, like courtiers before a king ! 
All I desire is to see you happy, and you refuse me ! 
Am I then powerless? — Wilfred, listen, come nearer 
to me. Yes, I should grieve to see you marry Minna 
but — when I am here no longer, then — promise me to 
marry her ; heaven destined you for each other." 

" I listen to j'ou with fascination, Seraphita. Your 
words are incomprehensible, but they charm me. What 
is it 3'ou mean to say ? " 

" You are right ; I forget to be foolish, — to be the 
poor creature whose weaknesses gratify yon. I torment 
you, Wilfrid. You came to these Northern lands for 
rest, 3-ou, worn-out by the impetuous struggle of genius 
unrecognized, you, weary with the patient toils of 
science, you, who well-nigh dyed your hands in crime 
and wore the fetters of human justice — " 



38 SerapMta. 

Wilfred dropped speechless on the carpet. Seraphita 
breathed softly on his forehead, and in a moment he 
fell asleep at her feet. 

" Sleep ! rest ! " she said, rising. 

She passed her hands over Wilfrid's brow; then 
the following sentences escaped her lips, one bj-one, — 
all different in tone and accent, but all melodious, 
full of a Goodness that seemed to emanate from her 
head in vaporous waves, like the gleams the goddess 
chastel}' la^'s upon End3'mion sleeping. 

" I cannot show myself such as I am to thee, dear 
Wilfrid, — to thee who art strong. 

"The hour is come; the hour when the effulgent 
lights of the future cast their reflections backward on 
the soul ; the hour when the soul awakes into freedom. 

" Now am I permitted to tell thee how I love thee. 
Dost thou not see the nature of m}' love, a love without 
self-interest ; a sentiment full of thee, thee only ; a love 
which follows thee into the future to light that future 
for thee — for it is the one True Light. Canst thou 
now conceive with what ardor I would have thee leave 
this life which weighs thee down, and behold thee 
nearer than thou art to that world where Love is never- 
failing? Can it be aught but suffering to love for one 
life only ? Hast thou not felt a thirst for the eternal 
love ? Dost thou not feel the bliss to which a creature 
rises when, with twin-soul, it loves the Being who be- 
trays not love. Him before whom we kneel in adoration? 

" Would I had wings to cover thee, Wilfred ; power to 
give thee strength to enter now into that world where 



SerapJiita. 39 

all the purest joys of purest earthly attachments are but 
shadows in the Light that shines, unceasing, to illumine 
and rejoice all hearts. 

" Forgive a friendly soul for showing thee the picture 
of thy sins, in the charitable hope of soothing the sharp 
pangs of thy remorse. Listen to the pardoning choir ; 
refresh thy soul in the dawn now rising for thee be- 
yond the night of death. Yes, thy life, thy true life 
is there ! 

" May my words now reach thee clothed in the glorious 
forms of dreams; may they deck themselves with 
images glowing and radiant as they hover round you. 
Rise, rise, to the height where men can see themselves 
distinctly, pressed together though they be like grains 
of sand upon a sea-shore. Humanity rolls out like a 
many-colored ribbon. See the diverse shades of that 
flower of the celestial gardens. Behold the beings who 
lack intelligence, those who begin to receive it, those 
who have passed through trials, those who love, those 
who follow wisdom and aspire to the regions of 
Light ! 

" Canst thou comprehend, through this thought made 
visible, the destiny of humanity? — whence it came, 
whither it goeth? Continue steadfast in the Path. 
Reaching the end of thy journey thou shalt hear the 
clarions of omnipotence sounding the cries of victory in 
chords of which a single one would shake the earth, but 
which are lost in the spaces of a world that hath neither 
east nor west. 

" Canst thou comprehend, my poor beloved Tried-one, 



40 Seraphita. 

that unless the torpor and the veils of sleep had wrapped 
thee, such sights would rend and bear away thy mind 
as the whirlwinds rend and carry into space the feeble 
sails, depriving thee forever of thy reason ? Dost thou 
understand that the Soul itself, raised to its utmost 
power can scarcely endure in dreams the burning com- 
munications of the Spirit ? 

" Speed thy way through the luminous spheres ; behold, 
admire, hasten ! Flying thus thou canst pause or ad- 
vance without weariness. Like other men, thou wouldst 
fain be plunged forever in these spheres of light and 
perfume where now thou art, free of thy swooning body, 
and where thy thought alone has utterance. FI3' ! enjoj^ 
for a fleeting moment the wings thou shalt surely win 
when Love has grown so perfect in thee that thou hast 
no senses left ; when thy whole being is all mind, all 
love. The higher th}' flight the less canst thou see the 
ab^'sses. There are none in heaven. Look at the 
friend who speaks to thee ; she who holds thee above 
this earth in which are all abysses. Look, behold, 
contemplate me j'et a moment longer, for never again 
wilt thou see me, save imperfectly as the pale twilight 
of this world may show me to thee." 

Seraphita stood erect, her head with floating hair 
inclining gentl}' forward, in that aerial attitude which 
great painters give to messengers from heaven ; the 
folds of her raiment fell with the same unspeakable grace 
which holds an artist — the man who translates all things 
into sentiment — before the exquisite well-known lines 
of Polyhymnia's veil. Then she stretched forth her 



Seraphita. 41 

hand. Wilfrid rose. When he looked at Seraphita she 
was lying on the bear's-skin, her head resting on her 
hand, her face calm, her eyes brilliant. Wilfrid gazed 
at her silently ; bnt his face betrayed a deferential fear 
in its almost timid expression. 

" Yes, dear," he said at last, as though he were an- 
swering- some question ; "we are separated by worlds. 
I resign myself ; I can only adore you. But what will 
become of me, poor and alone ! " 

" Wilfrid, you have Minna." 

He shook his head. 

"Do not be so disdainful: woman understands all 
things through love ; what she does not understand 
she feels ; what she does not feel she sees ; when she 
neither sees, nor feels, nor understands, this angel of 
earth divines to protect you, and hides her protection 
beneath the grace of love." 

" Seraphita, am I worthy to belong to a woman? " 

"Ah, now," she said, smiling, "you are suddenly 
verj- modest ; is it a snare ? A woman is always so 
touched to see her weakness glorified. Well, come and 
take tea with me the day after to-morrow evening ; good 
Monsieur Becker will be here, and Minna, the purest 
and most artless creature I have known on earth. 
Leave me now, my friend ; I need to make long prayers 
and expiate my sins." 

' ' You, can yon commit sin ? " 

" Poor friend ! if we abuse our power, is not that the 
sin of pride? I have been very proud to-day. Now 
leave me, till to-morrow." 



42 Seraphita. 

" Till to-morrow," said Wilfrid faintly, casting a long 
glance at the being of whom he desired to carry with 
him an ineffaceable memory. 

Though he wished to go far away, he was held, as it 
were, outside the house for some moments, watching 
the light which shone from all the windows of the 
Swedish dwelling. 

"What is the matter with me?" he asked himself. 
" No, she is not a mere creature, but a whole crea- 
tion. Of her world, even through veils and clouds, I 
have caught echoes like the memory of sufferings 
healed, like the dazzling vertigo of dreams in which 
we hear the plaints of generations mingling with the 
harmonies of some higher sphere where all is Light and 
all is Love. Am I awake? Do I still sleep? Are 
these the e^'es before which the luminous space re- 
treated further and further indefinitely while the eyes 
followed it? The night is cold, yet my head is fire. I 
will go to the parsonage. With the pastor and his 
daughter I shall recover the balance of my mind." 

But still he did not leave the spot whence his e^^es 
could plunge into Seraphita's salon. The mysterious 
creature seemed to him the radiating centre of a lumi- 
nous circle which formed an atmosphere about her wider 
than that of other beings ; whoever entered it felt the 
compelling influence of, as it were, a vortex of daz- 
zUng light and all consuming thoughts. Forced to 
struggle against this inexplicable power, Wilfrid only 
prevailed after strong efforts ; but when he reached and 
passed the inclosing wall of the courtyard, he regained 



Seraphita. 43 

^is freedom of will, walked rapidlj- towards the par- 
sonage, and was soon beneath the high wooden arch 
which formed a sort of perist3'le to Monsieur Becker's 
dwelling. He opened the first door, against which the 
wind had driven the snow, and knocked on the inner 
one, saying : — 

" Will you let me spend the evening with you, 
Monsieur Becker?" 

" Yes," cried two voices, mingling their intonations. 

Entering the parlor, Wilfrid returned by degrees to 
real life. He bowed affectionately to Minna, shook 
bands with Monsieur Becker, and looked about at the 
picture of a home which calmed the convulsions of his 
physical nature, in which a phenomenon was taking 
place analogous to that which sometimes seizes upon 
men who have given themselves up to protracted con- 
templations. If some strong thought bears upward on 
phantasmal wing a man of learning or a poet, isolates 
him from the external circumstances which environ him 
here below, and leads him forward through illimitable 
regions where vast arrays of facts become abstractions, 
where the greatest works of Nature are but images^ 
then woe betide him if a sudden noise strikes sharply 
on his senses and calls his errant soul back to its 
prison-house of flesh and bones. The shock of the 
reunion of these two powers, bod}' and mind, — one of 
which partakes of the unseen qualities of a thunder- 
bolt, while the other shares with sentient nature that 
soft resistant force which defies destruction, ff- this 
shock, this struggle, or, rather let us say, this painful 



44 Seraphita. 

meeting and co-mingling, gives rise to frightful suffer- 
ings. The body receives back the flame that consumes 
it ; the flame has once more grasped its prey. This 
fusion, however, does not take place without convul- 
sions, explosions, tortures ; analogous and visible signs 
of which may be seen in chemistry, when two antago- 
nistic substances which science has united separate. 

For the last few davs whenever Wilfrid entered Sera- 
phita's presence his body seemed to fall away from him 
into nothingness. With a single glance this strange 
being led him in spirit through the spheres where medi- 
tation leads the learned man, pra^'er the pious heart, 
where vision transports the artist, and sleep the souls of 
men, — each and all have their own path to the Height, 
their own guide to reach it, their own individual suffer- 
ings in the dire return. In that sphere alone all veils 
are rent away, and the revelation, the awful flaming 
certainty of an unknown world, of which the soul brings 
back mere fragments to this lower sphere, stands re- 
vealed. To Wilfrid one hour passed with Seraphita 
was like the sought-for dreams of Theriakis, in which 
each knot of nerves becomes the centre of a radiating 
delight. But he left her bruised and wearied as some 
young girl endeavoring to keep step with a giant. 

The cold air, with its stinging flagellations, had begun 
to still the nervous tremors which followed the reunion 
of his two natures, so powerfully disunited for a time ; 
he was drawn towards the parsonage, then towards 
Minna, by the sight of the every-day home life for which 
he thirsted as the wandering European thirsts for his 



Seraphita. 45, 

native land when nostalgia seizes him amid the fairy 
scenes of Orient that have seduced his senses. More 
weary than he had ever yet been, Wilfrid dropped into 
a chair and looked about him for a time, like a man who 
awakes from sleep. Monsieur Becker and his daughter 
accustomed, perhaps, to the apparent eccentricity of 
their guest, continued the employments in which they 
were engaged. 

The parlor was ornamented with a collection of the 
shells and insects of Norwa}'. These curiosities, ad- 
mirably aiTanged on a background of the yellow pine 
which panelled the room, formed, as it were, a rich tap- 
estry to which the fumes of tobacco had imparted a 
mellow tone. At the further end of the room, opposite 
to the door, was an immense wrought-ii'on stove, care- 
fully polished by the serving-woman till it shone like 
burnished steel. Seated in a large tapestried armchair 
near the stove, before a table, with his feet in a species 
of muff, Monsieur Becker was reading a folio volume 
which was propped against a pile of other books as on 
a desk. At his left stood a jug of beer and a glass, at 
his right burned a smoky lamp fed by some species of 
fish-oil. The pastor seemed about sixty years of age. 
His face belonged to a type often painted by Rembrandt ; 
the same small bright e3'es, set in wrinkles and sur- 
mounted by thick gray eyebrows ; the same white hair 
escaping in snow}' flakes from a black velvet cap ; the 
same broad, bald brow, and a contour of face which 
the ample chin made almost square ; and lastly, the 
same calm tranquillity, which, to an observer, denoted 



46 Seraphita. 

the possession of some inward power, be it the su- 
premacy bestowed by money, or the magisterial in- 
fluence of the burgomaster, or the consciousness of art, 
or the cubic force of blissful ignorance. This fine old 
man, whose stout body proclaimed his vigorous health, 
was wrapped in a dressing-gown of rough gray cloth 
plainly bound. Between his lips was a meerschaum 
pipe, from which, at regular intervals, he blew the 
smoke, following with abstracted vision its fantastic 
wreathings, — his mind emploj'ed, no doubt, in assimi- 
lating through some meditative process the thoughts of 
the author whose works he was studying. 

On the other side of the stove and near a door which 
communicated with the kitchen Minna was indistinctly 
visible in the haze of the good man's smoke, to which 
she was apparently accustomed. Beside her on a little 
table were the implements of household work, a pile of 
napkins, and another of socks waiting to be mended, 
also a lamp like that which shone on the white page of 
the book in which the pastor was absorbed. Her fresh 
young face, with its delicate outline, expressed an in- 
finite purity which harmonized with the candor of the 
white brow and the clear blue e^'es. She sat erect, 
turning slightly toward the lamp for better light, uncon- 
sciously showing as she did so the beauty of her waist 
and bust. She was already dressed for the night in a 
.'ong robe of white cotton ; a cambric cap, without other 
ornament than a frill of the same, confined her hair. 
Though evidently plunged in some inward meditation, 
she counted without a mistake the threads of her 



Seraphita. 47 

napkins or the meshes of her socks. Sitting thus, she 
presented the most complete image, the truest t^'pe, 
of the woman destined for terrestrial labor, whose 
glance may pierce the clouds of the sanctuary while her 
thought, humble and charitable, keeps her ever on the 
level of man. 

Wilfrid had flung himself into a chair between the 
two tables and was contemplating with a species of in- 
toxication this picture full of harmony, to which the 
clouds of smoke did no despite. The single window 
which lighted the parlor during the fine weather was 
now carefully closed. An old tapestry, used for a curtain 
and fastened to a stick, hung before it in heav}' folds. 
Nothing in the room was picturesque, nothing bi'illiant ; 
€ver3'thing denoted rigorous simplicity, true heartiness, ^\ 
the ease of unconventional nature, and the habits of a 
domestic life which knew neither cares nor troubles. 
Many a dwelling is like a dream, the sparkle of passing 
pleasure seems to hide some ruin beneath the cold smile 
of luxury ; but this parlor, sublime in reality, harmo- 
nious in tone, diffused the patriarchal ideas of a full 
and self-contained existence. The silence was unbroken 
save b}^ the movements of the servant in the kitchen 
engaged in preparing the supper, and by the sizzling of 
the dried fish which she was frying in salt butter accord- 
ing to the custom of the country. 

" Will you smoke a pipe? " said the pastor, seizing a 
moment when he thought that Wilfrid might Hsten to him. 

" Thank you, no, dear Monsieur Becker," replied the 
visitor. 



48 Seraphita. 

*' You seem to suffer more to-day than usual," said 
Minna, struck by the feeble tones of the strangers 
voice. 

" I am always so when I leave the chateau." 

Minna quivered. 

" A strange being lives there, Monsieur Becker," he 
continued after a pause. "For the six months tl^at I 
have been in this village I have never yet dared to 
question you about her, and even now I do violence 
to my feelings in speaking of her. I began by keenly 
regretting that my journey in this country was arrested 
by the winter weather and that I was forced to remain 
here. But during the last two months chains have 
been forged and riveted which bind me irrevocably to 
Jarvis, till now I fear to end my days here. You know 
how I first met Seraphita, what impression her look 
and voice made upon me, and how at last I was ad- 
mitted to her home where she receives no one. From 
the very first day I have longed to ask you the history 
of this mysterious being. On that day began, for me, 
a series of enchantments." 

"Enchantments!" cried the pastor shaking the 
ashes of his pipe into an earthen-ware dish full of 
sand, "are there enchantments in these days?" 

" You, who are carefully studying at this moment 
that volume of the ' Incantations ' of Jean Wier, will 
surely understand the explanation of my sensations if 
I try to give it to you," replied Wilfrid. " If we study 
Nature attentively in its great evolutions as in its 
minutest works, we cannot fail to recognize the pos- 



Seraphita. 49 

sibility of enchantment — giving to that word its exact 
significance. Man does not create forces ; he employs 
the only force that exists and which includes all others 
namely Motion, the breath incomprehensible of the ( 
sovereign Maker of the universe. Species are too ) » 
distinctly separated for the human hand to mingle 
them. The only miracle of which man is capable 
is done through the conjunction of two antagonistic 
substances. Gunpowder for instance is germane to a 
thunderbolt. As to calling forth a creation, and a 
sudden one, all creation demands time, and time 
neither recedes nor advances at the word of command. 
So, in the world without us, plastic nature obe3's 
laws the order and exercise of which cannot be in- 
terfered with b}' the hand of man. But after fulfil- 
ling, as it were, the function of Matter, it would be 
unreasonable not to recognize within us the existence 
of a gigantic power, the effects of which are so in- 
commensurable that the known generations of men 
have never yet been able to classify them. I do not 
speak of man's faculty of abstraction, of constraining 
Nature to confine itself within the Word, — a gigantic 
act on which the common mind reflects as little as it 
does on the nature of Motion, but which, nevertheless, 
has led the Indian theosophists to explain creation by 
a word to which they give an inverse power. The 
smallest atom of their subsistence, namel}', the grain 
of rice, from which a creation issues and in which al- 
ternately creation again is held, presented to their 
minds so perfect an image of the creative word, and 

1 



50 Seraphita. 

of the abstractive word, that to them it was easy to 
apply the same system to the creation of worlds. The 
majority of men content themselves with the grain of 
rice sown in the first chapter of all the Geneses. Saint 
John, when he said the Word was God only compli- 
cated the difficulty. But the fructification, germination, 
and efflorescence of our ideas is of little consequence 
if we compare that property, shared by many men, with 
the wholly individual faculty of communicating to that 
property, by some mysterious concentration, forces that 
are more or less active, of canying it up to a third, a 
ninth, or a twenty-seventh power, of making it thus 
fasten upon the masses and obtain magical results by 
condensing the processes of nature. 

" What I mean by enchantments," continued Wilfrid 
after a moment's pause, " are those stupendous actions 
taking place between two membranes in the tissue of 
the brain. We find in the unexplorable nature of the 
Spiritual World certain beings armed with these won- 
drous faculties, comparable only to the terrible power 
of certain gases in the physical world, beings who com- 
bine with other beings, penetrate them as active agents, 
and produce upon them witchcrafts, charms, against 
which these helpless slaves are wholly defenceless; 
they are, in fact, enchanted, brought under subjection, 
reduced to a condition of dreadful vassalage. Such 
mysterious beings overpower others with the sceptre 
and the glory of a superior nature, — acting upon them 
at times like the torpedo which electrifies or paralyzes 
the fisherman, at other times like a dose of phosphorus 



Seraphita. 51 

which stimulates life and accelerates its propulsion ; or 
again, like opium, which puts to sleep corporeal nature, 
disengages the spirit from ever}' bond, enables it to 
float above the world and shows this earth to the 
spiritual eye as through a prism, extracting from it the 
food most needed ; or, yet again, like catalepsy, 
which deadens all faculties for the sake of one only 
vision. Miracles, enchantments, incantations, witch- 
crafts, spells, and charms, in short, all those acts 
improperly termed supernatural, are only possible and 
can only be explained by the despotism with which 
some spirit compels us to feel the effects of a m3-s- 
terious optic which increases, or diminishes, or exalts 
creation, moves within us as it pleases, deforms or 
embellishes all things to our eyes, tears us from 
heaven, or drags us to hell, — two terms bv which 
men agree to express the two extremes of joy and 
misery. 

"These phenomena are within us, not without us," 
Wilfrid went on. " The being whom we call Seraphita 
seems to me one of those rare and terrible spirits to 
whom power is given to bind men, to crush nature, to 
enter into participation of the occult power of God. 
The course of her enchantments over me began on that 
first day, when silence as to her was imposed upon me 
against my will. Each time that I have wished to 
question you it seemed as though I were about to reveal 
a secret of which I ought to be the incorruptible guar- 
dian. Whenever I have tried to speak, a burning seal 
has been laid upon my lips, and I myself have become 



52 Seraphita. 

the involuntary minister of these raj'steries. You see me 
here to-night, for the hundredth time, bruised, defeated, 
broken, after leaving the hallucinating sphere which 
surrounds that young girl, so gentle, so fragile to both 
of you, but to me the cruellest of magicians ! Yes, to 
me she is like a sorcerer holding in her right hand the 
invisible wand that moves the globe, and in her left the 
thunderbolt that rends asunder all things at her will. 
No longer can I look upon her brow ; the light of it ia 
insupportable. I skirt the borders of the abyss of mad- 
ness too closely to be longer silent. I must speak. I 
seize this moment, when courage comes to me, to resist 
the power which drags me onward without inquiring 
whether or not I have the force to follow. Who is she ? 
Did you know her young ? What of her birth ? Had 
she father and mother, or was she born of the conjunc- 
tion of ice and sun ? She burns and 3'et she freezes ; 
she shows herself and then withdraws ; she attracts me 
and repulses me ; she brings me life, she gives me 
death ; I love her and j^et I hate her ! I cannot live 
thus ; let me be wholly in heaven or in hell ! " 

Holding his refilled pipe in one hand, and in the other 
the cover which he forgot to replace. Monsieur Becker 
listened to Wilfrid with a m^-sterious expression on his 
face, looking occasionally' at his daughter, who seemed 
to understand the man's language as in harmony with 
the strange being who inspired it. Wilfrid was splendid 
to behold at this moment, — like Hamlet listening to 
the ghost of his father as it rises for him alone in the 
midst of the living. 



Seraphita. 53 

*' This is certainly the language of a man in love," 
said the good pastor, innocenth". 

" In love ! " cried Wilfrid, " 3'es, to common minds. 
But, dear Monsieur Becker, no words can express the 
frenzy which draws me to the feet of that unearthly 
being." 

"Then you do love her? " said Minna, in a tone of 
reproach. 

" Mademoiselle, I feel such extraordinarj' agitation 
"when I see her, and such deep sadness when I see her 
no more, that in any other man what 1 feel would be 
called love. But that sentiment draws those who feel 
it ardenth' together, whereas between her and me a 
great gulf lies, whose icy coldness penetrates my very 
being in her presence ; though the feeling dies awa}' 
when I see her no longer. I leave her in despair ; I 
return to her with ardor, — like men of science who 
seek a secret from Nature onlj" to be baffled, or like the 
painter who would fain put life upon his canvas and 
strives with all the resources of his art in the vain 
attempt." 

" Monsieur, all that yoxx say is true," replied the 
young girl, artlessl}'. 

" How can j-ou know, Minna? " asked the old pastor. 

" Ah ! m}' father, had you been with us this morning 
on the summit of the Falberg, had you seen him pray- 
ing, you would not ask me that question. You would 
say, like Monsieur Wilfrid, when he saw his Seraphita 
for the first time in our temple, ' It is the Spirit of 
Prayer.' " 



54 Seraphita. 

These words were followed by a moment's silence. 
"Ah, trul^M" said Wilfrid, "she has nothing 
in common with the creatures who grovel upon this 

earth." 

" On the Falberg ! " said the old pastor, " how could 

you get there ? " 

"I do not know," replied Minna; "the way is like 
a dream to me, of which no more than a memory 
remains. Perhaps I should hardly believe that I had 
been there were it not for this tangible proof." 

She drew the flower from her bosom and showed it ta 
them. All three gazed at the pretty saxifrage, which 
was still fresh, and now shone in the light of the two 
lamps like a third luminarj'. 

" This is indeed supernatural," said the old man^ 
astounded at the sight of a flower blooming in winter. 

"A mystery!" cried Wilfrid, intoxicated with its 
perfume. 

" The flower makes me giddy," said Minna ; " I fancy 
I still hear that voice, — the m usic of though t ; that I 
still see the light of that look, which is Love." 

"I implore you, my dear Monsieur Becker, tell me 
the history of Seraphita, — enigmatical human flower, — 
whose image is before us in this mysterious bloom." 

" My dear friend," said the old man, emitting a pufl" 
of smoke, " to explain the birth of that being it is 
absolutel}' necessary that I disperse the clouds which 
envelop the most obscure of Christian doctrines. It is 
not easy to make myself clear when speaking of that 
incomprehensible revelation, — the last efl'ulgence of 



Seraphita. 55 

faith that has shone upon our lump of mud. Do you 
know Swedenborg? " 

"B}' name only, —of him, of his books and his 
religion I know nothing." 

"Then I must relate to you the whole chronicle of 
Swedenborg." 



56 iSeraphita, 



in. 

SERAPHITA-SERAPHITUS. 

After a pause, during which the pastor seemed to 
be gathering his recollections, he continued in the fol- 
lowing words : — 

" Emmanuel Swedenborg was born at Upsala in Sweden, 
in the month of Januar}', 1688, according to various 
authors, — in 1689, according to his epitaph. His father 
was Bishop of Skara. Swedenborg lived eightj'-five 
years ; his death occurred in London, March 29, 1772. 
I use that term to conve}' the idea of a simple change 
of state. According to his disciples, Swedenborg was 
seen at Jarvis and in Paris after that date. Allow me, 
mj' dear Monsieur Wilfrid," said Monsieur Becker, 
making a gesture to prevent all interruption, " I relate 
these facts without either affirming or den\'ing them. 
Listen ; afterwards you can think and say what you 
like. I will inform you when I judge, criticise, and 
discuss these doctrines, so as to keep clearly in view my 
own intellectual neutrality between Him and Reason. 

" The life of Swedenborg was di^^ded into two parts," 
continued the pastor. ' ' From 1 688 to 1 745 Baron Eman- 
uel Swedenborg appeared in the world as a man of vast 
learning, esteemed and cherished for his virtues, always 
irreproachable and constantly useful. While fulfilling 



SerapJiita. 57 

high public functions in Sweden, he published, between 
1709 and 1740, several important works on mineralog}-, 
physics, mathematics, and astronomy, which enlight- 
ened the world of learning. He originated a method of 
building docks suitable for the reception of large vessels, 
and he wrote many treatises on various important ques- 
tions, such as the rise of tides, the theory of the magnet 
and its qualities, the motion and position of the earth 
and planets, and, while Assessor in the Royal Col- 
lege of Mines, on the proper system of working salt 
mines. He discovered means to construct canal-locks or 
sluices ; and he also discovered and applied the simplest 
methods of extracting ore and of working metals. In 
fact he studied no science without advancing it. In 
youth he learned Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, also the 
oriental languages, with which he became so familiar 
that many distinguished scholars consulted him, and he 
was able to decipher the vestiges of the oldest known 
books of Scripture, namely : ' The Wars of Jehovah ' 
and ' The Enunciations,' spoken of by Moses (Numbers 
xxi. 14, 15, 27-30), also by Joshua, Jeremiah, and 
Samuel, — ' The Wars of Jehovah ' being the historical 
part and ' The Enunciations ' the prophetical part of 
the Mosaical Books anterior to Genesis. Swedenborg 
even affirms that ' the Book of Jasher,' the Book of the 
Righteous, mentioned by Joshua, was in existence in 
Eastern Tartary, together with the doctrine of Corres- 
pondences. A Frenchman has latel}', so they tell me, 
justified these statements of Swedenborg, b}' the dis- 
covery at Bagdad of several portions of the Bible 



58 SerapUta. 

hitherto unknown in Europe. During the widespread 
discussion on animal magnetism which took its rise in 
Paris, and in which most men of Western science took 
an active part about the year 1785, Monsieur le Marquis 
de Thome vindicated the memory of Swedenborg by 
calling attention to certain assertions made by the 
Commission appointed by the King of France to inves- 
tigate the subject. These gentlemen declared that no 
theory of magnetism existed, whereas Swedenborg had 
studied and promulged it ever since the year 1720. 
Monsieur de Thome seized this opportunity to show the 
reason why so many men of science relegated Sweden- 
borg to oblivion while they delved into his treasure- 
house and took his facts to aid their work. ' Some of 
the most illustrious of these men,' said Monsieur de 
Thom(5, alludmg to the 'Theory of the Earth' by 
Buffon, 'have had the meanness to wear the plumage of 
the noble bird and refuse him all acknowledgment ; ' and 
he proved, by masterl}' quotations drawn from the en- 
C3'clop9edic works of Swedenborg, that the great prophet 
had anticipated by over a century the slow march of 
human science. It suffices to read his philosophical 
and mineralogical works to be convinced of this. In 
one passage he is seen as the precursor of modern 
chemistry by the announcement that the productions of 
organized nature are decomposable and resolve into two 
simple principles ; also that water, air, and fire are not 
elements. In another, he goes in a few words to the 
heart of magnetic m3-steries and deprives Mesmer of 
the honors of a first knowledge of them. 



SerapTiita. 59 

" There," said Monsieur Becker, pointing to a long 
shelf against the wall between the stove and the window 
on which were ranged books of all sizes, " behold him ! 
here are seventeen works from his pen, of which one, 
his ' Philosophical and Mineralogical "Works,' published 
in 1734, is in three folio volumes. These productions, 
which prove the incontestable knowledge of Sweden- 
borg, were given to me by Monsieur Seraphitus, his 
cousin and the father of Seraphita. 

" In 1740," continued Monsieur Becker, after a slight 
pause, " Swedenborg fell into a state of absolute silence, 
from which he emerged to bid farewell to all his earthl}' 
occupations ; after which his thoughts turned exclu- 
sivelj^ to the Spiritual Life. He received the first com- 
mands of heaven in 1745, and he thus relates the nature 
of the vocation to which he was called : One evening, 
in London, after dining with a great appetite, a thick 
white mist seemed to fill his room. When the vapor 
dispersed a creature in human form rose from one 
corner of the apartment, and said in a stern tone, ' Do 
not eat so much.' He refrained. The next night the 
same man returned, radiant in light, and said to him, 
•• I am sent of God, who has chosen you to explain to 
men the meaning of his Word and his Creation. I will 
tell j'ou what to write.' The vision lasted but a few 
moments. The Angel was clothed in purple. During 
that night the ej'es of his inner man were opened, and 
he was forced to look into the heavens, into the world 
of spirits, and into hell, — three separate spheres ; where 
he encountered persons of his acquaintance who had 



60 Seraphita. 

departed from their human form, some long since» 
others lately. Thenceforth Swedenborg lived wholly 
in the spiritual life, remaining in this world only as the 
messenger of God. His mission was ridiculed by the 
incredulous, but his conduct was plainly that of a being 
superior to humanity. In the first place, though limited 
in means to the bare necessaries of life, he gave away 
enormous sums, and publicly, in several cities, restored 
the fortunes of great commercial houses when they were 
on the brink of failure. No one ever appealed to his 
generosity who was not immediately satisfied. A scep- 
tical Englishman, determined to know the truth, fol- 
lowed him to Paris, and relates that there his doors 
stood always open. One day a servant complained of 
this apparent negligence, which laid him open to sus- 
picion of thefts that might be committed by others. 
*He need feel no anxiety,' said Swedenborg, smiling. 
' But I do not wonder at his fear ; he cannot see the 
guardian who protects my door.' In fact, no matter 
in what country he made his abode he never closed his 
doors, and nothing was ever stolen from him. At 
Gottenburg — a town situated some sixty miles from 
Stockholm — he announced, eight da3-s before the news 
arrived by courier, the conflagration which ravaged 
Stockholm, and the exact time at which it took place. 
The Queen of Sweden wrote to her brother, the King, 
at Berlin, that one of her ladies-in-waiting, who was 
ordered by the courts to pay a sum of monej- which she 
was certain her husband had paid before his death, 
went to Swedenborg and begged him to ask her hus- 



SerapJiita. 61 

band where she coald find proof of the payment. Toe 
following day Swedenborg, having done as the lady 
requested, pointed cot the place where the receipt woold 
be found. He also b^^ed tiie deceased to appear to his 
wife, and the latter saw her husband in a dream, 
wrapped in a dressing-gown whidi he wore just before 
his death ; and he showed her the paper in the place 
indicated by Swedenborg, where it had been securely 
put away. At another time, embarking from Lond<m 
in a vessel commanded by Captain Dixon, he orer- 
heard a lady a^^Ving if there were plenty of provisions 
on board. ' We do not want a great quantity,' he said ; 
* in eight days and two hoars we shall reach Stockholm,' 
— which actually happened- TMs pe<mliar state of 
vision as to the things of earth — into which Sweden- 
borg could put himself at wiH, and which astonished 
those about him — ^ss. nevertheless, but a feeble rep- 
resentative of Lis :;. -TV of looking into heaven- 

•• Not the least icrG^kable of his published visions is 
that in which he relates his journeys tiiroi^ the Astral 
Regions ; his descriptions cannot fail to astonish the 
reader, partly through the crudity of their details. 
A man whose scientific eminence is incontestable, and 
who united in his own person powers of conception, 
will, and imagination, wwild surely have invented better 
if he bad invented at alL The fantastic literature of 
the East offers nothing tiiat can ^ve an idea of this 
astounding work, full of the essence of poetry, if it is 
permissible to compare a woik of faith with one ot 
oriental fancy. The transiwrtation of Swedenborg by 



62 Seraphita. 

the Angel who served as guide to his first journey is 
told with a sublimity which exceeds, by the distance 
which God has placed betwixt the earth and sun, the 
great epics of Klopstock, Milton, Tasso, and Dante. 
This description, which serves in fact as an introduction 
to his work on the Astral Regions, has never been pub- 
lished ; it is among the oral traditions left by Sweden- 
borg to the three disciples who were nearest to his 
heart. Monsieur Silverichm has written them down. 
Monsieur Seraphitus endeavored more than once to 
talk to me about them ; but the recollection of his 
cousin's words was so burning a memory that he always 
stopped short at the first sentence and became lost in 
a revery from which I could not rouse him." 

The old pastor sighed as he continued : ' ' The baron 
told me that the argument by which the Angel proved 
to Swedenborg that these bodies are not made to 
wander through space puts all human science out 
of sight beneath the grandeur of a divine logic. 
According to the Seer, the inhabitants of Jupiter 
will not cultivate the sciences, which they call dark- 
ness ; those of Mercury abhor the expression of ideas 
by speech, which seems to them too material, — their 
language is ocular ; those of Saturn are continually 
tempted by evil spirits ; those of the Moon are as 
small as six-3'ear-old children, their voices issue from 
the abdomen, on which they crawl ; those of Venus are 
gigantic in height, but stupid, and live by robbery, 

— although a part of this latter planet is inhabited by 
beings of great sweetness, who live in the love of Good. 



Seraphita. 63 

In short, he describes the customs and morals of all the 
peoples attached to the different globes, and explains 
the general meaning of their existence as related to the 
universe in terms so precise, giving explanations which 
agree so well with their visible evolutions in the S3-stem 
of the world, that some day, perhaps, scientific men 
will come to drink of these living waters. 

" Here," said Monsieur Becker, taking down a book 
and opening it at a mark, " here are the woi'ds with 
which he ended this work : — 

" ' If any man doubts that I was transported through 
a vast number of Astral Regions, let him recall my ob- 
sei"vation of the distances in that other life, namely, 
that they exist only in relation to the external state 
of man ; now, being transformed within like unto the 
Angelic Spirits of those Astral Spheres, I was able to 
understand them.' 

" The circumstances to which we of this canton owe 
the presence among us of Bai'on Seraphitus, the be- 
loved cousin of Swedenborg, enabled me to know all 
the events of the extraordinary life of that prophet. 
He has lately been accused of imposture in certain 
quarters of Europe, and the public prints reported 
the following fact based on a letter written by the 
Chevalier Baylon. Swedenborg, the}' said, informed 
by certain senators of a secret correspondence of the 
late Queen of Sweden with her brother, the Prince of 
Prussia, revealed his knowledge of the secrets con- 
tained in that correspondence to the Queen, making 
her believe he had obtained this knowledge by super- 



64 Seraphita. 

natural means. A man worthy of all confidence, 
Monsieur Charles-Leonhard de Stahlhammer, captain 
in the Royal guard and knight of the Sword, answered 
the calumny with a convincing letter." 

The pastor opened a drawer of his table and looked 
through a number of papers until he found a gazette 
which he held out to Wilfrid, asking him to read aloud 
the following letter : — 

Stockholm, May 18, 1788. 

I HAVE read with amazement a letter which purports to 
relate the interview of the famous Swedenborg with Queen 
Louisa-Ulrika. The circumstances therein stated are wholly 
false ; and I hope the writer will excuse me for showing him 
by the following faithful narration, which can be proved by 
the testimony of many distinguished persons then present 
and stiU living, how completely he has been deceived. 

In 1758, shortly after the death of the Prince of Prussia 
Swedenborg came to court, where he was in the habit of 
attending regularly. He had scarcely entered the queen's 
presence before she said to him : " Well, Mr. Assessor, have 
you seen my brother?" Swedenborg answered no, and 
the queen rejoined : " If you do see him, greet him for me." 
In saying this she meant no more than a pleasant jest, and 
had no thought whatever of asking him for information 
about her brother. Eight days later (not twenty-four as 
stated, nor was the audience a private one), Swedenborg 
agam came to court, but so early that the queen had not left 
her apartment called the White Room, where she was con- 
versing with her maids-of -honor and other ladies attached to 
the court. Swedenborg did not wait until she came forth, 
but entered the said room and whispered something in her 
ear. The queen, overcome with amazement, was taken ill, 



Seraphita. 65 

and it was some time before she recovered herself. "VMien 
she did so she said to those about her : " Only God and my 
brother knew the thing that he has just spoken of." She 
admitted that it related to her last correspondence with the 
prince on a subject which was known to them alone. I can- 
not explain how Swedenborg came to know the contents of 
that letter, but I can affirm on my honor, that neither Count 

H (as the writer of the article states) nor any other 

person intercepted, or read, the queen's letters. The senate 
allowed her to write to her brother in perfect security, con- 
sidering the correspondence as of no interest to the State. 
It is evident that the author of the said article is ignorant of 

the character of Count H . This honored gentleman, who 

has done many important services to his country, unites the 
qualities of a noble heart to gifts of mind, and his great age 
has not yet weakened these precious possessions. During 
his whole administration he added the weight of scrupulous 
integrity to his enlightened policy and openly declared him- 
self the enemy of all secret intrigues and underhand deal- 
ings, which he regarded as unworthy means to attain an 
end. Neither did the writer of that article understand the 
Assessor Swedenborg. The only weakness of that essentially 
honest man was a belief in the apparition of spirits ; but I 
knew him for many years, and I can affirm that he was as 
fully convinced that he met and talked with spirits as I 
am that I am writing at this moment. As a citizen and 
as a friend his integrity was absolute ; he abhorred decep- 
tion and led the most exemplary of lives. The, version 
which the Chevalier Baylon gave of these facts is, therefore, 
entirely without justification; the visit stated to have been 

made to Swedenborg in the night-time by Count H and 

Count T is hereby contradicted. In conclusion, the 

writer of the letter may rest assured that I am not a fol- 

5 



66 SerapTiita. 

lower of Swedenborg. The love of truth alone impels me to 
give this faithful account of a fact which has been so often 
stated with details that are entirely false. I certify to the 
truth of what I have written by adding my signature. 

Charles-Leonhard de Stahlhammer. 

"The proofs which Swedenborg gave of his mission 
to the ro3'al families of Sweden and Prussia were no 
doubt the foundation of the belief in his doctrines which 
is prevalent at the two courts," said Monsieur Becker, 
putting the gazette into the drawer. " However," he 
continued, "I shall not tell you all the facts of his 
visible and material life ; indeed his habits prevented 
them from being fully known. He lived a hidden life ; 
not seeking either riches or fame. He was even noted 
for a sort of repugnance to making proselytes ; he 
opened his mind to few persons, and never showed his 
external powers of second-sight to any who were not 
eminent in faith, wisdom, and love. He could recognize 
at a glance the state of the soul of every person who 
approached him, and those whom he desired to reach 
with his inward language he converted into Seers. 
After the j-ear 1745, his disciples never saw him do a 
single thing from any human motive. One man alone, 
a Swedish priest, named Mathesius, set afloat a story 
that he went mad in Loudon in 1744. But a eulogium 
on Swedenborg prepared with minute care as to all the 
known events of his life, was pronounced after his death 
in 1772 on behalf of the Ro^'al Academy of Sciences in 
the Hall of the Nobles at Stockholm, by Monsieur 
Sandels, counsellor of the Board of Mines. A declara- 



Seraphita, 67 

• 

tion made before the Lord Major of London gives the 
details of his last illness and death, in which he received 
the ministrations of Monsieur Ferelius a Swedish priest 
of the highest standing, and pastor of the Swedish 
Church in London, Mathesius being his assistant. All 
persons present attested that so far from den3ing the 
value of his writings Swedenborg firml}- asserted their 
truth. ' In one hundred years,' Monsieur FereUus 
quotes him as saying, ' my doctrine will guide the 
Church.' He predicted the day and hour of his death. 
On that day, Sunday, March 29, 1772, hearing the clock 
strike, he asked what time it was. ' Five o'clock ' 
was the answer. ' It is well,' he answered ; ' thank 
you, God bless you.' Ten minutes later he tranquilly 
departed, breathing a gentle sigh. Simplicity, modera- 
tion, and solitude were the features of his life. When 
he had finished writing any of his books he sailed either 
for London or for Holland, where he published them, 
and never spoke of them again. He published in this 
way twenty-seven different treatises, all written, he said, 
from the dictation of Angels. Be it true or false, few 
men have been strong enough to endure the flames of 
oral illumination. 

" There they all are," said Monsieur Becker, pointing 
to a second shelf on which were some sixty volumes. 
" The treatises on which the Divine Spirit casts its most 
vivid gleams are seven in number, namely : ' Heaven and 
Hell ; ' ' Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and 
the Divine Wisdom ; ' ' Angelic Wisdom concerning the 
Divine Providence ; ' ' The Apocalypse Revealed ; ' ' Con* 



I5ij 8eraphUa. 

jugial Love and its Chaste Delights ; ' ' The True Christian 
Eelio-ion ; ' and * An Exposition of the Internal Sense.' 
Swedenborg's explanation of the Apocalypse begins 
with these words," said Monsieur Becker, taking down 
and opening the volume nearest to him: "'Herein I 
have written nothing of mine own ; I speak as I am 
bidden by the Lord, who said, through the same angel, 
to John : " Thou shalt not seal the sayings of this 
Prophecy,'" (Revelation xxii. 10.) 

"My dear Monsieur Wilfrid," said the old man, 
looking at his guest, "I often tremble in every limb 
as I read, during the long winter evenings the awe- 
inspiring works in which this man declares with per- 
fect artlessness the wonders that are revealed to him. 
' I have seen,' he says, ' Heaven and the Angels. 
The spiritual man sees his spiritual fellows far better 
than the terrestrial man sees the men of earth. In 
describing the wonders of heaven and beneath the heav- 
ens I obey the Lord's command. Others have the right 
to believe me or not as thej- choose. I cannot put them 
into the state in which God has put me ; it is not in m}' 
power to enable them to converse with Angels, nor to 
work miracles within their understanding ; they alone 
can be the instrument of their rise to angelic inter- 
course. It is now twentj'-eight 3'ears since I have lived 
in the Spiritual world with angels, and on earth with 
men ; for it pleased God to open the ej^es of my Spirit 
as he did that of Paul, and of Daniel and Elisha.' 

" And yet," continued the pastor, thoughtfully, " cer- 
tain persons have had visions of the spiritual world 



Seraphita. 69 

through the complete detachment which somnambulism 
produces between their external form and their inner 
being. ' In this state,' says Swedenborg in his trea- 
tise on Angelic Wisdom (No. 257) ' Man may rise 
into the region of celestial light because, his corporeal 
senses being abolished, the influence of heaven acts 
without hindrance on his inner man.' Manj' persons 
who do not doubt that Swedenborg received celestial 
revelations think that his writings are not all the result 
of divine inspiration. Others insist on absolute adher- 
ence to him ; while admitting his many obscurities, they 
believe that the imperfection of earthly language pre- 
vented the prophet from clearly revealing those spiritual 
visions whose clouds disperse to the eyes of those whom 
faith regenerates ; for, to use the words of his greatest 
disciple, ' Flesh is but an external propagation.' Tc 
poets and to writers his presentation of the marvellous 
is amazing ; to Seers it is simply reality. To some 
Christians his descriptions have seemed scandalous. 
Certain critics have ridiculed the celestial substance of 
his temples, his golden palaces, his splendid cities where 
angels disport themselves ; they laugh at his groves of 
miraculous trees, his gardens where the flowers speak 
and the air is white, and the mystical stones, the sard, 
carbuncle, chrysolite, chrysoprase, jacinth, chalcedony, 
beryl, the Urim and Thumraim, are endowed with mo- 
tion, express celestial truths, and reply by variations 
of light to questions put to them (' True Christian Reli- 
gion,' 219). Many noble souls will not admit his spirit- 
ual worlds where colors are heard in delightful concert, 



70 Seraphita. 

where language flames and flashes, where the Word is 
writ in pointed spiral letters (' True Christian Religion,' 
278). Even in the North some writers have laughed at 
the gates of pearl, and the diamonds which stud the 
floors and walls of his New Jerusalem, where the most 
ordinary utensils are made of the rarest substances of 
the globe. * But,' say his disciples, ' because such things 
are sparsely scattered on this earth does it follow that 
they are not abundant in other worlds ? On earth they 
are terrestrial substances, whereas in heaven they assume 
celestial forms and are in keeping with angels.' In this 
connection Swedenborg has used the very words of Jesus 
Christ, who said, ' If I have told you earthly things 
and 3'e believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell yon of 
heavenly things?' 

" Monsieur," continued the pastor, with an emphatic 
gesture, " I have read the whole of Swedenborg's works ; 
and I sa}^ it with pride, because I have done it and 
3'et have retained my reason. In reading him men 
either miss his meaning or become Seers like him. 
Though I have evaded both extremes, I have often ex- 
perienced unheard-of delights, deep emotions, inward 
joys, which alone can reveal to us the plenitude of 
truth, — the evidence of celestial Light. All things 
here below seem small indeed when the soul is lost in 
the perusal of these Treatises. It is impossible not to 
be amazed when we think that in the short space of 
thirty j^ears this man wrote and published, on the 
truths of the Spiritual World, twenty-five quarto vol- 
umes, composed in Latin, of which the shortest has 



SerapJiita. jj 

five hundred pages, all of them printed in small type. 
He left, thej' say, twenty others in London, bequeathed 
to his nephew, Monsieur Silverichm, formerly almoner 
to the King of Sweden. Certainly a man who, between 
the ages of twenty and sixty, had already exhausted 
himself in publishing a series of encyelopsedical works, 
must have received supernatural assistance in com- 
posing these later stupendous treatises, at an age, too, 
when human vigor is on the wane. You will find in 
these writings thousands of propositions, all numbered, 
none of which have been refuted. Throughout we see 
method and precision ; the presence of the Spirit issu- 
ing and flowing down from a single fact, — the exist- 
ence of angels. His ' True Christian Religion,' which 
sums up his whole doctrine and is vigorous with lio-ht 
was conceived and written at the age of eighty-three. 
In fact, his amazing vigor and omniscience are not 
denied by any of his critics, not even by his enemies. 

" Nevertheless," said Monsieur Becker, slowly, 
"though I have drunk deep in this torrent of divine 
light, God has not opened the eyes of ray inner being, 
and I judge these writings by the reason of an un- 
regenerated man. I have often felt that the inspired 
Swedenborg must have misunderstood the Angels. I 
have laughed over certam visions which, according to 
his disciples, I ought to have believed with veneration. 
I have failed to imagine the spiral writing of the 
Angels or their golden belts, on which the gold is of 
great or lesser thickness. If, for example, this state- 
ment, ' Some angels are solitary,' afl"ected me power • 



72 Seraphita. 

fully for a time, I was, on reflection, unable to reconcile 
this solitude with their marriages. I have not under- 
stood why the Virgin Mary should continue to wear 
blue satin garments in heaven. I have even dared to 
ask myself why those gigantic demons, Enakira and 
Hephilim, came so frequently to fight the cherubim 
on the apocah-ptic plains of Armageddon ; and I can- 
not explain to m}' own mind how Satans can argue 
with Angels. Monsieur le Baron Seraphitus assured 
me that these details concerned onlj' the angels who 
live on earth in human form. The visions of the 
prophet are often blurred with grotesque figures. One 
of his spiritual tales, or ' Memorable relations,' as he 
called them, begins thus : ' I see the spirits assembling, 
they have hats upon their heads.' In another of these 
Memorabilia he receives from heaven a bit of paper, 
on which he saw, he says, the hieroglyphics of the 
primitive peoples, which were composed of curved lines 
traced from the finger-rings that are worn in heaven. 
However, perhaps I am wrong ; possibl}' the material 
absurdities with which his works are strewn have 
spiritual significations. Otherwise, how shall we ac- 
count for the growing influence of his religion? His 
church numbers to-day more than seven hundred thou- 
sand believers, — as many in the United States of 
America as in England, where there are seven thou- 
sand Swedenborgians in the cit}- of Manchester alone. 
Many men of high rank in knowledge and in social 
position in Germany, in Prussia, and in the Northern 
kingdoms have publicly adopted the beliefs of Sweden- 



SerapTiita. 73 

borg ; which, I ma}- remark, are more comforting than 
those of all other Christian communions. I wish I had 
the power to explain to you clearly in succinct language 
the leading points of the doctrine on which Swedenborg 
founded his church ; but I fear such a summary, made 
from recollection, would be necessarily defective. I 
shall, therefore, allow myself to speak only of those 
' Arcana ' which concern the birth of Seraphita." 

Here Monsieur Becker paused, as though composing 
his mind to gather up his ideas. Presently he continued, 
as follows : — 

" After establishing mathematically that man lives 
eternally in spheres of either a lower or a higher grade, 
Swedenborg applies the term 'Spiritual Angels' to 
beings who in this world are prepared for heaven, 
where they become angels. According to him, God 
has not created angels ; none exist who have not been 
men upon the earth. The earth is the nursery-ground 
of heaven. The Angels are therefore not Angels as 
such ('Angelic Wisdom,' 57), they are transformed 
through their close conjunction with God ; which con- 
junction God never refuses, because the essence of God 
is not negative, but incessantlj' active. The spiritual 
angels pass through three natures of love, because man 
is onl}' regenerated through successive stages (' True 
Religion ') . First, the Love of Self : the supreme 
expression of this love is human genius, whose works 
are worshipped. Next, Love of Life : this love pro- 
duces prophets, — great men whom the world accepts 
as guides and proclaims, to be divine. Lastly, Love 



74 Seraphita. 

OF Heaven, and this creates the Spiritual Angel. 
These angels are, so to speak, the flowers of hu- 
manity, which culminates in them and works for that 
culmination. They must possess either the love of 
heaven or the wisdom of heaven, but always Love 
before Wisdom. 

"Thus the first transformation of the natural man 
is into Love. To reach this first degree, his previous 
existences must have passed through Hope and Charity, 
which prepare him for Faith and Prayer. The ideas 
acquired b^^ the exercise of these virtues are trans- 
mitted to each of the human envelopes within which are 
hidden the metamorphoses of the Inner Being ; for 
nothing is separate, each existence is necessary to the 
other existences. Hope cannot advance without Char- 
ity, nor Faith without Prayer ; thej' are the four fronts 
of a solid square. ' One virtue missing,' he said, 
' and the Spiritual Angel is like a broken pearl.' 
Each of these existences is therefore a circle in which 
revolves the celestial riches of the inner being. The 
perfection of the Spiritual Angels comes from this 
mysterious progression in which nothing is lost of the 
high qualities that are successively acquired to attain 
each glorious incarnation ; for at each transformation 
they cast away unconsciously the flesh and its errors. 
When the man lives in Love he has shed all evil 
passions: Hope, Charity, Faith, and Prayer have, in 
the words of Isaiah, purged the dross of his inner 
being, which can never more be polluted by earthly 
aff"ections. Hence the grand saying of Christ quoted 



Seraphita. 75 

by Saint Matthew, ' Lay up for yourselves treasures 
in Heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt,' 
and those still grander words : ' If ye were of this 
world the world would love you, but I have chosen you 
out of the world ; be ye therefore perfect as your Father 
in heaven is perfect.' " 

" The second transformation of man is to Wisdom, 
Wisdom is the understanding of celestial things to 
which the spirit is brought by Love. The Spirit of 
Love has acquired strength, the result of all vanquished 
terrestrial passions ; it loves God blindly. But the 
Spirit of Wisdom has risen to understanding and knows 
why it loves. The wings of the one are spread and 
bear the spirit to God ; the wings of the other are held 
down by the awe that comes of understanding : the 
spirit knows God. The one longs incessantly to see 
God and to fly to Him ; the other attains to Him and 
trembles. The union eflfected between the Spirit of 
Love and the Spirit of Wisdom carries the human 
being into a Divine state during which time his soul 
is Woman and his bod}' Man, the last human mani- 
festation in which the Spirit conquers Form, or Form 
still struggles against the Spirit, — for Form, that is, 
the flesh, is ignorant, rebels, and desires to continue 
gross. This supreme trial creates untold sufl'erings 
seen by Heaven alone, — the agony of Christ in the 
Garden of Olives. 

" After death the first heaven opens to this dual and 
purified human nature. Therefore it is that man dies 
in despair while the Spirit dies in ecstasy. Thus, the 



76 SerapJiita. 

Natural, the state of beings not yet regenerated ; the 
Spiritual, the state of those who have become AngeUc 
Spirits ; and the Divine, the state in which the Angel 
exists before he breaks from his covering of flesh, are 
the three degrees of existence through which man en- 
ters heaven. One of Swedenborg's thoughts expressed 
in his own words will explain to you with wonderful 
clearness the difference between the Natural and the 
Spiritual. ' To the minds of men,' he says, ' the 
Natural passes into the Spiritual ; they regard the world 
under its visible aspects, they perceive it onl}^ as it can 
be realized by their senses. But to the apprehension of 
AngeUc Spirits, the Spiritual passes into the Natural ; 
the}- regard the world in its inward essence, and not in 
its form.' Thus human sciences are but anal3'ses of 
form. The man of science as the world goes is purely 
external like his knowledge ; his inner being is only 
used to preserve his aptitude for the perception of ex- 
ternal truths. The Angelic Spirit goes far bej'ond that ; 
his knowledge is the thought of which human science is 
but the utterance ; he derives that knowledge from the 
Logos, and learns the law of Correspondences b}'' 
which the world is placed in unison with heaven. The 
Word of God was wholly written by pure Correspond- 
ences, and covers an esoteric or spiritual meaning, 
which according to the science of Correspondences, 
cannot be understood. ' There exist,' says Sweden- 
borg (' Celestial Doctrine ' 26), ' innumerable Arcana 
within the hidden meaning of the Correspondences. 
Thus the men who scoff at the books of the Prophets 



Seraphita. 77 

■where the Word is enshrined are as densely ignorant 
as those other men who know nothing of a science and 
yet ridicule its truths. To know the Correspondences 
of the Word with Heaven ; to know the Correspond- 
ences which exist between the things visible and pon- 
derable in the terrestrial world and the things invisible 
and imponderable in the spiritual world, is to hold heaven 
within our comprehension. All the objects of the mani- 
fold creations having emanated from God necessarily en- 
fold a hidden meaning ; according, indeed, to the grand 
thought of Isaiah, ' The earth is a garment.' 

" This m^'sterious link between Heaven and the small- 
est atoms of created matter constitutes what Sweden- 
borg calls a Celestial Arcanum, and his treatise on 
the ' Celestial Arcana ' in which he explains the cor- 
respondences or significances of the Natural with, and 
to, the Spiritual, giving, to use the words of Jacob 
Boehm, the sign and seal of all things, occupies not 
less than sixteen volumes containing thirty thousand 
propositions. ' This marvellous knowledge of Cor- 
respondences which the goodness of God granted to 
Swedenborg,' says one of his disciples, ' is the secret 
of the interest which draws men to his works. Accord- 
ing to him, all things are derived from heaven, all 
things lead back to heaven. His writings are sublime 
and clear; he speaks in heaven, and earth hears him. 
Take one of his sentences b}' itself and a volume could 
be made of it;' and the disciple quotes the following 
passages taken from a thousand others that would 
answer the same purpose. 



78 SerapMta. 

" ' The kingdom of heaven,' says Swedenborg ('Celes- 
tial Arcana'), ' is the kingdom of motives. Action is 
born in heaven, thence into the world, and, by degrees, 
to the infinitely remote parts of earth. Terrestrial 
effects being thus linked to celestial causes, all things 
are Correspondent and Significant. Man is the 
means of union between the Natural and the Spiritual.' 

" The Angelic Spirits therefore know the very nature 
of the Correspondences which hnk to heaven all earthly 
things ; they know, too, the inner meaning of the 
prophetic words which foretell their evolutions. Thus 
to these Spirits everything here below has its signifi- 
cance ; the tiniest flower is a thought, — a life which 
corresponds to certain lineaments of the Great Whole, 
of which they have a constant intuition. To them 
Adultery and the excesses spoken of in Scripture and 
by the Prophets, often garbled by self-stj-led scholars, 
mean the state of those souls which in this world per- 
sist in tainting themselves with earthlj'^ aflfections, thus 
compelling their divorce from Heaven. Clouds sig- 
nify the veil of the Most High. Torches, shew-bread, 
horses and horsemen, harlots, precious stones, in short, 
everything named in Scripture, has to them a clear- 
cut meaning, and reveals the future of terrestrial 
facts in their relation to Heaven. They penetrate the 
truths contained in the Revelation of Saint John the 
divine, which human science has subsequently demon- 
strated and proved materially; such, for instance, as 
the following (' big,' said Swedenborg, ' with many 
human sciences ') : ' I saw a new heaven and a new 



Seraphita. 79 

earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were 
passed away ' (Revelation xxi. 1). These Spirits know 
the supper at which the flesh of kings and the flesh of 
all men, free and bond, is eaten, to which an Angel 
standing in the sun has bidden them. Thev see the 
winged woman, clothed with the sun, and the mailed 
man. ' The horse of the Apocalyse,' saj's Swedenborg 
* is the visible image of human intellect ridden by Death, 
for it bears within itself the elements of its own destruc- 
tion.' Moreover, they can distinguish beings concealed 
under forms which to ignorant eyes would seem fan- 
tastic. When a man is disposed to receive the pro- 
phetic afflation of Correspondences, it rouses within him 
a perception of the Word ; he comprehends that the 
creations are transformations only ; his intellect is 
sharpened, a burning thirst takes possession of him 
which onl^' Heaven can quench. He conceives, ac- 
cording to the greater or lesser perfection of his inner 
being, the power of the Angelic Spirits ; and he ad- 
vances, led b}' Desire (the least imperfect state of un- 
regenerated man) towards Hope, the gateway to the 
world of Spirits, whence he reaches Pra3*er, which gives 
him the Ke}' of Heaven. 

"What being here below would not desire to render 
himself worthj' of entrance into the sphere of those who 
live in secret by Love and Wisdom? Here on earth, 
during their lifetime, such spirits remain pure ; they 
neither see, nor think, nor speak like other men. There 
are two ways by which perception comes, — one inter- 
nal, the other external. Man is wholly external, the 



80 Seraphita. 

Angelic Spirit wholly internal. The Spirit goes to the 
depth of Numbers, possesses a full sense of them, 
knows their significances. It controls Motion, and by 
reason of its ubiquity it shares in all things. 'An 
Angel,' says Swedenborg, ' is ever present to a man 
when desired ' ('Angelic Wisdom') ; for the Angel has 
the gift of detaching himself from his body, and he 
sees into heaven as the prophets and as Swedenborg 
himself saw into it. ' In this state,' writes Swedenborg 
(' True Religion,' 136), ' the spirit of a man may move 
from one place to another, his body remaining where 
it is, — a condition in which I lived for over twent^'-six 
years.' It is thus that we should interpret all Biblical 
statements which begin, ' The Spirit led me.' Angelic 
Wisdom is to human wisdom what the innumerable 
forces of nature are to its action, which is one. All 
things live again, and move and have their being in 
the Spirit, which is in God. Saint Paul expresses this 
truth when he says, T71 Deo sumus, movemur, et 
vivimus, — we live, we act, we are in God. 

"Earth offers no hindrance to the Angelic Spirit, 
just as the Word offers him no obscurit}^ His ap- 
proaching di\'init3' enables him to see the thought of 
God veiled in the Logos, just as, living b}' his inner 
being, the Spirit is in communication with the hidden 
meaning of all things on this earth. Science is the 
language of the Temporal world, Love is that of the 
Spiritual world. Thus man takes note of more than he 
is able to explain, while the Angelic Spirit sees and 
comprehends. Science depresses man ; Love exalts the 



Seraphita. 81 

Angel. Science is still seeking, Love has found. Man 
judges Nature according to his own relations to her ; 
the Angelic Spirit judges it in its relation to Heaven. 
In short, all things have a voice for the Spii'it. Spirits 
are in the secret of the harmony of all creations with 
each other ; they comprehend the spirit of sound, the 
spirit of color, the spirit of vegetable life ; the}- can 
question the mineral, and the mineral makes answer to 
their thoughts. What to them are sciences and the 
treasures of the earth when they grasp all things by 
the eye at all moments, when the worlds which absorb 
the minds of so man}' men are to them but the last step 
from which they spring to God? Love of heaven, or 
the Wisdom of heaven, is made manifest in them b}- a 
circle of light which surrounds them, and is visible to 
the Elect. Their innocence, of which that of chil- 
dren is a sj-mbol, possesses, nevertheless, a knowledge 
which children have not ; they are both innocent and 
learned. 'And,* sa3's Swedenborg, 'the innocence of 
Heaven makes such an impression upon the soul that 
those whom it affects keep a rapturous memory- of it 
which lasts them all their lives, as I m3'self have ex- 
perienced. It is perhaps sufficient,' he goes on, ' to 
have only a minimum perception of it to be forever 
changed, to long to enter Heaven and the sphere of 
Hope.' 

" His docti'ine of Marriage can be reduced to the fol- 
lowing words : ' The Lord has taken the beauty and 
the grace of the life of man and bestowed them upon 
woman. When man is not reunited to this beauty and 

6 



82 Seraphita. 

this grace of his life, he is harsh, sad, and sullen ; when 
he is reunited to them he is joyful and complete.' The 
Angels are ever at the perfect point of beauty. Mar- 
riao-es are celebrated by wondrous ceremonies. In these 
unions, which produce no children, man contributes the 
Understanding, woman the Will; they become one 
beino-, one Flesh here below, and pass to heaven clothed 
in the celestial form. On this earth, the natural attrac- 
tion of the sexes towards enjoyment is an Effect which 
allures, fatigues and disgusts ; but in the form celestial 
the pair, now one in Spirit find within theirself a cease- 
less source of joy. Swedenborg was led to see these 
nuptials of the Spirits, which in the words of Saint Luke 
(xx. 35) are neither marrying nor giving in marriage, 
and which inspire none but spiritual pleasures. An 
Anscel offered to make him witness of such a marriage 
and bore him thither on his wings (the wings are a 
symbol and not a reality) . The Angel clothed him in 
a wedding garment and when Swedenborg, finding him- 
self thus robed in light, asked why, the answer wab . 
* For these events, our garments are illuminated ; they 
shine; they are made nuptial.' ('Conjugial Love,' 19, 
20, 2L) Then he saw two Angels, one coming from 
the South, the other from the East ; the Angel of the 
South was in a chariot drawn by two white horses, with 
reins of the color and brilliance of the dawn ; but lo, 
when they were near him in the sk}^ chariot and horses 
vanished. The Angel of the East, clothed in crimson, 
and the Angel of the South, in purple, drew together, 
like breaths, and mingled : one was the Angel of Love, 



SerapJdta. 83 

the other the Angel of Wisdom. Swedenborg's guide 
told him that the two Angels had been linked together 
on earth by an inward friendship and ever united though 
separated in life b^' great distances. Consent, the 
essence of all good marriage upon earth, is the habitual 
state of Angels in Heaven. Love is the light of their 
world. The eternal rapture of Angels comes from the 
faculty that God communicates to them to render back 
to Him the jo}' they feel through Him. This reciprocity' 
of infinitude forms their life. They become infinite by 
participating of the essence of God, who generates Him- 
self by Himself. 

"The immensity of the Heavens where the Angels 
dwell is such that if man were endowed with sight as 
rapid as the darting of light from the sun to the earth, 
and if he gazed throughout eternitj', his eyes could 
not reach the horizon, nor find an end. Light alone 
can give an idea of the joys of heaven. ' It is,' says 
Swedenborg ('Angelic Wisdom,' 7, 25, 26, 27), 'a 
vapor of the virtue of God, a pure emanation of His 
splendor, beside which our greatest brilliance is obscu- 
rity. It can compass all ; it can renew all, and is never 
absorbed : it environs the Angel and unites him to God 
by infinite joys which multiply infinitel}' of themselves. 
This Light destroys whosoever is not prepared to re- 
ceive it. No one here below, nor yet in Heaven can 
see God and Uve. This is the meaning of the saying 
(Exodus xix. 12, 13, 21-23) "Take heed to your- 
selves that ye go not up into the mount — lest ye break 
through unto the Lord to gaze, and many perish." 



84 SerapJiita. 

And again (Exodus xxxiv. 29-35), "When Moses 
came down from Mount Sinai with the two Tables of 
testimony in his hand, his face shone, so that he put a 
veil upon it when he spake with tlie people, lest any of 
them die." The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ like- 
wise revealed the light surrounding the Messengers from 
on high and the ineffable jo3'S of the Angels who are for- 
ever imbued with it. " His face," says Saint Matthew 
(xvii. 1-5), "did shine as the sun and his raiment was 
white as the light — and a bright cloud overshadowed 
them." ' 

" When a planet contains onl}' those beings who re- 
ject the Lord, when his word is ignored, then the Angelic 
Spirits are gathered together by the four winds, and 
God sends forth an Exterminating Angel to change the 
face of the refractor}- earth, which in the immensit}' of 
this universe is to Him what an unfruitful seed is to 
Nature. Approaching the globe, this Exterminating 
Angel, borne by a comet, causes the planet to turn 
upon its axis, and the lands lately* covered by the seas 
reappear, adorned in freshness and obedient to the 
laws proclaimed in Genesis ; the Word of God is once 
more powerful on this new earth, which everywhere 
exhibits the effects of terrestrial waters and celestial 
flames. The light brought by the Angel from On 
High, causes the sun to pale. 'Then,' says Isaiah, 
(xix. 20) ' men will hide in the clefts of the rock and 
roll themselves in the dust of the earth.' ' They will cry 
to the mountains (Revelation), Fall on us! and to the 
seas, Swallow us up ! Hide us from the face of Him 



Seraphita. 85 

that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the 
Lamb ! ' The Lamb is the great figure and hope of the 
Angels misjudged and persecuted here below. Christ 
himself has said, ' Blessed are those who mourn ! 
Blessed are the simple-hearted ! Blessed are the}- that 
love!' — All Swedenborg is there! Suffer, Believe, 
Love. To love truly must we not suffer? must we 
not believe? Love begets Strength, Strength bestows 
Wisdom, thence Intelligence ; for Strength and "Wis- 
dom demand Will. To be intelligent, is not that to 
Know, to Wish, and to Will, — the three attributes 
of the Angelic Spirit? 'If the universe has a mean- 
ing,' Monsieur Saint-Martin said to me when I met 
him during a journe}' which he made in Sweden, ' surely 
this is the one most worthy of God.' 

" But, Monsieur," continued the pastor after a thought- 
ful pause, " of what avail to 30U are these shreds of 
thoughts taken here and there from the vast extent of 
a work of which no true idea can be given except hy 
comparing it to a river of light, to billows of flame? 
When a man plunges into it he is carried away as by 
an awful current. Dante's poem seems but a speck 
to the reader submerged in the almost Biblical verses 
with which Swedenborg renders palpable the Celestial 
Worlds, as Beethoven built his palaces of harmony 
with thousands of notes, as architects have reared 
cathedrals with millions of stones. We roll in sound- 
less depths, where our minds will not alwaj's sustain us. 
Ah, surely a great and powerful intellect is needed to 
bring us back, safe and sound, to our own social beliefs. 



86 Seraphita. 

" Swedenborg," resumed the pastor, "was particu- 
larly attached to the Baron de Seraphitz, whose name, 
according to an old Swedish custom, had taken from 
time immemorial the Latin termination of us. The 
baron was an ardent disciple of the Swedish prophet, 
who had opened the e3'es of his Inner-Man and brought 
him to a life in conformity with the decrees from On- 
High. He sought for an Angelic Spirit among women ; 
Swedenborg found her for him in a vision. His bride 
was the daughter of a London shoemaker, in whom, 
said Swedenborg, the life of Heaven shone, she having 
passed through all anterior trials. After the death, 
that is, the transformation of the prophet, the baron 
came to Jarvis to accomplish his celestial nuptials with 
the observances of Praj^er. As for me, who am not a 
Seer, I have only known the terrestrial works of this 
couple. Their lives were those of saints whose virtues 
are the glory of the Roman Church. They ameliorated 
the condition of our people ; they supplied them all 
with means in return for work, — little, perhaps, but 
enough for all their wants. Those who lived with 
them in constant intercourse never saw them show a 
sign of anger or impatience ; they were constantly 
beneficent and gentle, full of courtesy and loving- 
kindness ; their marriage was the harmony of two 
souls indissolubly united. Two eiders winging the 
same flight, the sound in the echo, the thought in the 
word, — these, perhaps, are true images of their union. 
Every one here in Jarvis loved them with an affection 
which I can compare only to the love of a plant for the 



Seraphita. 87 

sun. The wife was simple in lier manners, beautiful 
in form, lovely in face, with a dignity- of bearing like 
that of august personages. In 1783, being then twenty- 
six years old, she conceived a child ; her pregnancy 
was to the pair a solemn joy. They prepared to bid 
the earth farewell ; for they told me they should be 
transformed when their child had passed the state of 
infancy which needed their fostering care until the 
strength to exist alone should be given to her. 

" Their child was born, — the Seraphita we are now 
concerned with. From the moment of her conception 
father and mother lived a still more solitarj- life than in 
the past, lifting themselves to heaven by Prayer. They 
hoped to see Swedenborg, and faith realized their hope. 
The day on which Seraphita came into the world Swe- 
denborg appeared in Jarvis, and filled the room of the 
new-born child with light. I was told that he said, 
' The work is accomplished ; the Heavens rejoice ! ' 
Sounds of unknown melodies were heard throughout 
the house, seeming to come from the four points of 
heaven on the wings of the wind. The spirit of 
Swedenborg led the father forth to the shores of the 
fiord and there quitted him. Certain inhabitants of 
Jarvis, having approached Monsieur Seraphitus as he 
stood on the shore, heard him repeat those blissful 
words of Scripture : ' How beautiful on the mountains 
are the feet of Him who is sent of God ! ' 

" I had left the parsonage on mj' wa}' to baptize the 
infant and name it, and perform the other duties re- 
quired by law, when I met the baron returning to the 



88 SerapTiita. 

house. ' Your ministrations are superfluous,' he said ; 
' our child is to be without name on this earth. You 
must not baptize in the waters of an earthly Church 
one who has just been immersed in the fires of Heaven. 
This child will remain a blossom, it will not grow old; 
you will see it pass away. You exist, but our child has 
life ; you have outward senses, the child has none, its 
beiuo' is all inward.' These words were uttered in so 
strange and supernatural a voice that I was more 
affected b}' them than by the shining of his face, from 
which light appeared to exude. His appearance re- 
alized the phantasmal ideas which we form of inspired 
beings as we read the prophesies of the Bible. But 
such effects are not rare among our mountains, where 
the nitre of perpetual snows produces extraordinary 
phenomena in the human organization. 

" I asked him the cause of his emotion. ' Sweden- 
borg came to us ; he has just left me ; I have breathed 
the air of heaven,' he replied. 'Under what form did 
he appear?' I said. ' Under his earthly- form ; dressed 
as he was the last time I saw him in London, at 
the house of Richard Shearsmith, Coldbath-fields, in 
Jul}', 1771. He wore his brown frieze coat with steel 
buttons, his waistcoat buttoned to the throat, a white 
cravat, and the same magisterial wig rolled and pow- 
dered at the sides and raised high in front, showing his 
vast and luminous brow, in keeping with the noble 
square face, where all is power and tranquillity. I 
recognized the large nose with its fiery nostril, the 
mouth that ever smiled, — angelic mouth from which 



Seraphita. gn 

these words, the pledge of my happiness, have just 
issued, "We shall meet soon.'" 

" The conviction that shone on the baron's face for- 
bade all discussion ; I listened in silence. His voice 
had a contagious heat which made my bosom burn 
within me ; his fanaticism stirred my heart as the anger 
of another makes our nerves vibrate. I followed him 
in silence to his house, where I saw the nameless cliild 
lying mysteriously folded to its mother's breast. The 
babe heard my step and turned its head toward me ; its 
eyes were not those of an ordinary child. To give you 
an idea of the impression I received, I must say that 
already they saw and thought. The childhood of this 
predestined being was attended by circumstances quite 
extraordinary in our climate. For nine years our win- 
ters were milder and our summers longer than usual. 
This phenomenon gave rise to several discussions among 
scientific men ; but none of their explanations seemed 
sufficient to academicians, and the baron smiled when 
I told him of them. The child was never seen in its 
nudity as other children are ; it was never touched by 
man or woman, but lived a sacred thing upon the 
mother's breast, and it never cried. If you question 
old David he will confirm these facts about his mis- 
tress, for whom he feels an adoration like that of 
Louis IX. for the saint whose name he bore. 

" At nine years of age the child began to pray ; prayer 
is her life. You saw her in the church at Christmas, 
the only day on which she comes there ; she is sepa- 
rated from the other worshippers by a visible space. 



90 Seraphita. 

If that space does not exist between herself and men 
she suffers. That is why she passes nearly- all her time 
alone in the chateau. The events of her life are un- 
known ; she is seldom seen ; her da3's are spent in the 
state of mj'stical contemplation which was, so Catholic 
writers tell us, habitual with the early Christian soli- 
taries, in whom the oral tradition of Christ's own words 
still remained. Her mind, her soul, her body, all within 
her is virgin as the snow on those mountains. At ten 
years of age she was just what you see her now. When 
she was nine her father and mother expired together, 
without pain or visible malady, after naming the day 
and hour at which the}' would cease to be. Standing 
at their feet she looked at them with a calm eye, not 
showing either sadness, or grief, or joy, or curiosity. 
When we approached to remove the two bodies she 
said, ' Carry them away ! ' ' Seraphita,' I said, for 
so we called her, ' are you not affected by the death 
of your father and your mother who loved yon so 
much?' 'Dead?' she answered, 'no, they live in me 
forever — That is nothing,' she added, pointing with- 
out a trace of emotion to the bodies they were bearing 
awaj'. I then saw her for the third time only since her 
birth. In church it is difficult to distinguish her ; she 
stands near a column which, seen from the pulpit, is in 
shadow, so that I cannot observe her features. 

" Of all the servants of the household there remained 
after the death of the master and mistress only old 
David, who, in spite of his eighty -two years, suffices to 
wait on his mistress. Some of our Jarvis people tell 



Seraphita. 91 

wonderful tales about her. These have a certain weight 
in a land so essentiall}- conducive to mj'ster}- as ours ; 
and I am now studying the treatise on Incantations by 
Jean Wier and other works relating to demonology, 
where pretended supernatural events are recorded, 
hoping to find facts analogous to those which are at- 
tributed to her." 

" Then you do not believe in her?" said Wilfred. 

'' Oh yes, I do," said the pastor, genially, " I think 
her a very capricious girl ; a little spoilt by her parents, 
who turned her head with the religious ideas 1 have just 
revealed to j'ou." 

Minna shook her head in a way that gentl3- expressed 
contradiction. 

" Poor gu-1 ! " continued the old man, " her parents 
bequeathed to her that fatal exaltation of soul which 
misleads mystics and renders them all more or less 
mad. She subjects herself to fasts which horrify poor 
David. The good old man is like a sensitive plant 
which quivers at the slightest breeze, and glows under 
the first sun-ra}'. His mistress, whose incomprehen- 
sible language has become his, is the breeze and the 
sun-ray to him ; in his eyes her feet are diamonds and 
her brow is strewn with stars ; she walks environed 
with a white and luminous atmosphere ; her voice is 
accompanied by music ; she has the gift of rendering 
herself invisible. If you ask to see her, he will tellj'ou 
she has gone to the Astral Regions. It is difficult to 
believe such a story, is it not? You know all miracles 
bear more or less resemblance to the story of the 



92 Seraphita. 

Golden Tooth. We have our golden tooth in Jarvis, 
that is all. Duneker the fisherman asserts that he has 
seen her plunge into the fiord and come up in the shape 
of an eider-duck, at other times walking on the billows 
in a storm. Fergus, who leads the flocks to the saeters, 
says that in rainy weather a circle of clear sky can be 
seen over the Swedish castle ; and that the heavens are 
always blue above Seraphita's head when she is on the 
mountain. Man}' women hear the tones of a mighty 
organ when Seraphita enters the church, and ask their 
neighbors earnestly if they too do not hear them. But 
my daughter, for whom during the last two years Sera- 
phita has shown much affection, has never heard this 
music, and has never perceived the heavenly perfumes 
which, they saj', make the air fragrant about her when 
she moves. Minna, to be sure, has often on returning 
from their walks together expressed to me the delight 
of a 3'oung girl in the beauties of our spring-time, in 
the spicy odors of budding larches and pines and the 
earliest flowers ; but after our long winters what can 
be more natural than such pleasure ? The companion- 
ship of this so-called spirit has nothing so \&vy extra- 
ordinary in it, has it, mj- child?" 

" The secrets of that spirit are not mine," said 
Minna. "Near it I know all, away from it I know 
nothing ; near that exquisite life I am no longer my- 
self, far from it I forget all. The time we pass to- 
gether is a dream which my memory scarcely retains. 
I ma}' have heard yet not remember the music which the 
women tell of; in that presence, I may have breathed 



Seraphita. 93 

celestial perfumes, seen the glory of the heavens, and 
j'et be unable to recollect them here." 

"What astonishes me most," resumed the pastor, 
addressing Wilfrid, " is to notice that you suffer from 
being near her." 

' ' Near her ! " exclaimed the stranger, ' ' she has 
never so much as let me touch her hand. When she 
saw me for the first time her glance intimidated me ; 
she said : ' You are welcome here, for 3'ou were to 
come.' I fancied that she knew me. I trembled. It 
is fear that forces me to believe in her." 

" With me it is love," said Minna, without a blush. 

"Are 3'ou making fun of me?" said Monsieur 
Becker, laughing good-humoredly ; " you my daughter, 
in calling yourself a Spirit of Love, and 3'ou, Monsieur 
Wilfrid, in pretending to be a Spirit of Wisdom? " 

He drank a glass of beer and so did not see the 
singular look which Wilfrid cast upon Minna. 

" Jesting apart," resumed the old gentleman, " I 
have been much astonished to hear that these two 
mad-caps ascended to the summit of the Falberg ; it 
must be a girlish exaggeration ; they probably went to 
the crest of a ledge. It is impossible to reach the peaks 
of the Falberg." 

" If so, father," said Minna, in an agitated voice, " I 
must have been under the power of a spirit ; for indeed 
we reached the summit of the Ice-Cap." 

" This is really serious," said Monsieur Becker. 
" Minna is alwa3's truthful." 

" Monsieur Becker," said Wilfrid, " I swear to you 



94 Seraphita. 

that Seraphita exercises such extraordinary power over 
me that I know no language in which I can give 3'ou 
the least idea of it. She has revealed to me things 
known to mj-self alone." 

" Somnambulism ! " said the old man. " A great 
many such effects are related by Jean Wier as phe- 
nomena easily explained and formerly observed in 
Egypt." 

" Lend me Swedenborg's theosophical works," said 
Wilfrid, " and let me plunge into those gulfs of 
light, — you have given me a thirst for them." 

Monsieur Becker took down a volume and gave it 
to his guest, who instantly began to read it. It was 
about nine o'clock in the evening. The serving-woman 
brought in the supper. Minna made tea. The repast 
over, each returned silently to his or her occupation ; 
the pastor read the Incantations ; Wilfrid pursued the 
spirit of Swedenborg ; and the young girl continued to 
sew, her mind absorbed in recollections. It was a true 
Norwegian evening — peaceful, studious, and domestic ; 
full of thoughts, flowers blooming beneath the snow. 
Wilfrid, as he devoured the pages of the prophet, lived 
b}' his inner senses only ; the pastor, looking up at 
times from his book, called Minna's attention to the 
absorption of their guest with an air that was half- 
serious, half-jesting. To Minna's thoughts the face 
of Seraphitus smiled upon her as it hovered above the 
clouds of smoke which enveloped them. The clock 
struck twelve. Suddenh' the outer door was opened 
violently. Heavy but hurried steps, the steps of a 



Seraphita. 96 

terrified old man, were heard in the narrow vestibule be- 
tween the two doors ; then David burst into the parlor. 

'• Danger ! danger ! " he cried. " Come ! come, all ! 
The evil spirits are unchained ! Fiery mitres are on 
their heads ! Demons, Vertumni, Sirens ! the}' tempt 
her as Jesus was tempted on the mountain ! Come, 
come I and drive them away." 

" Do ^'ou not recognize the language of Sweden- 
borg?" said the pastor, laughing, to Wilfrid. "Here 
it is ; pure from the source." 

But Wilfrid and Minna were gazing in terror at old 
Da^^d, who, with hair erect, and e3'es distraught, his 
legs trembling and covered with snow, for he had come 
without snow-shoes, stood swaying from side to side, 
as if some boisterous wind were shaking him. 

" Is he harmed?" cried Minna. 

' ' The devils hope and try to conquer her," replied 
the old man. 

The words made Wilfrid's pulses throb. 

" For the last five hours she has stood erect, her e^^es 
raised to heaven and her arms extended ; she sufll'ers, 
she cries to God. I cannot cross the barrier ; Hell 
has posted the Vertumni as sentinels. They have set 
up an iron wall between her and her old David. She 
wants me, but what can I do? Oh, help me ! help me ! 
Come and pra}^ ! " 

The old man's despair was terrible to see. 

" The Light of God is defending her," he went on, with 
infectious faith, " but oh ! she might yield to violence." 

" Silence, David ! you are raving. This is a matter 



96 Seraphita. 

to be verified. We will go with you," said the pastor, 
"and 3'ou shall see that there are no Vertumni, nor 
Satans, nor Sirens, in that house." 

" Your father is blind," whispered David to Minna. 
Wilfrid, on whom the reading of Swedenborg's first 
treatise, which he had rapidly gone through, had pro- 
duced a powerful effect, was already in the corridor 
putting on his skees ; Minna was ready in a few mo- 
ments, and both left the old men far behind as they 
darted forward to the Swedish castle. 

" Do you hear that cracking sound? " said Wilfrid. 
" The ice of the fiord stirs," answered Minna ; " the 
spring is coming." 

Wilfrid was silent. When the two reached the court- 
3'ard the}'' were conscious that they had neither the 
faculty nor the strength to enter the house. 
" What think you of her?" asked Wilfrid. 
"See that radiance !" cried Minna, going towards 
the window of the salon. " He is there ! How beau- 
tiful ! O my Seraphitus, take me ! " 

The exclamation was uttered inwardly. She saw 
Seraphitus standing erect, lightly swathed in an opal- 
tinted mist that disappeared at a little distance from 
the body, which seemed almost phosphorescent. 
" How beautiful she is ! " cried Wilfrid, mentall}'. 
Just then Monsieur Becker arrived, followed by 
David ; he saw his daughter and guest standing before 
the window ; going up to them, he looked into the 
salon and said quietly, " Well, my good David, she is 
only saying her prayers." 



^eraphita. 97 

" Ah, but try to enter, Monsieur." 

« Why disturb those who pray ? " answered the pastor. 

At this instant the moon, rising above the Falber^y. 
cast its rays upon the window. All three turned round, 
attracted by this natural effect which made them quiver ; 
when they turned back to again look at Seraphita she 
had disappeared. 

" How strange ! " exclaimed Wilfrid. 

" I hear delightful sounds," said Minna. 

"Well," said the pastor, "it is all plain enough; 
she is going to bed." 

David had entered the house. The others took their 
way back in silence ; none of them interpreted the 
vision in the same manner, — Monsieur Becker doubted, 
Minna adored, Wilfrid longed. 

Wilfrid was a man about thirtj^-six years of age. His 
figure, though broadly developed, was not wanting in 
symmetry. Like most men who distinguish themselves 
above their fellows, he was of medium height ; his chest 
and shoulders were broad, and his neck short, — a char- 
acteristic of those whose hearts are near their heads ; his 
hair was black, thick, and fine ; his eyes, of a yellow 
brown, had, as it were, a solar brilliancy, which pro- 
claimed with what avidity his nature aspired to Light. 
Though these strong and virile features were defective 
through the absence of an inward peace, — granted 
only to a life without storms or conflicts, — they plainly 
showed the inexhaustible resources of impetuous senses 
and the appetites of instinct ; just as every motion re- 
vealed the perfection of the man's physical apparatus, the 



98 SerapMta. 

flexibility of Ms senses, and their fidelity when brought 
into play. This man might contend with savages, and 
hear, as they do, the tread of enemies in distant for- 
ests ; he could follow a scent in the air, a trail on the 
ground, or see on the horizon the signal of a friend. 
His sleep was light, like that of all creatures who will 
not allow themselves to be surprised. His body came 
quickly into harmony with the climate of any country 
where his tempestuous life conducted him. Art and 
science would have admired his organization in the 
light of a human model. Everything about him was 
symmetrical and well-balanced, — action and heart, in- 
telligence and will. At first sight he might be classed 
among purely instinctive beings, who give themselves 
blindly up to the material wants of life ; but in the very 
morning of his days he had flung himself into a higher 
social world, with which his feelings harmonized ; study 
had widened his mind, reflection had sharpened his 
power of thought, and the sciences had enlarged his 
understanding. He had studied human laws, — the 
working of self-interests brought into conflict by the 
passions, and he seemed to have early familiarized 
himself with the abstractions on which societies rest. 
He had pored over books, — those deeds of dead hu- 
manity ; he had spent whole nights of pleasure in every 
European capital ; he had slept on fields of battle the 
night before the combat and the night that followed 
victory. His stormy youth may have flung him on the 
deck of some corsair and sent him among the contrast- 
ing regions of the globe ; thus it w as that he knew the 



Seraphita. 99 

actions of a living humanitj-. He knew the present 
and the past, — a double histor}' ; that of to-day, that of 
other da^-s. Many men have been, like Wilfrid, equally 
powerful by the Hand, by the Heart, by the Head ; 
like him, the majority have abused their triple power. 
But though this man still held b}- certain outward liens 
to the slimy side of humanity, he belonged also and 
positively to the sphere where force is intelligent. In 
spite of the many veils which enveloped his soul, there 
were certain ineffable symptoms of this fact which were 
visible to pure spirits, to the eyes of the child whose 
innocence has known no breath of evil passions, to the 
eyes of the old man who has lived to regain his purit}'. 

These signs revealed a Cain for whom there was still 
hope, — one who seemed as though he were seeking 
absolution from the ends of the earth. Minna sus- 
pected the galley-slave of glory in the man ; Seraphita 
recognized him. Both admired and both pitied him. 
Whence came their prescience? Nothing could be 
more simple nor yet more extraordinary. As soon 
as we seek to penetrate the secrets of Nature, where 
nothing is secret, and where it is only necessary to have 
the eyes to see, we perceive that the simple produces 
the marvellous. 

" Seraphitus," said Minna one evening a few days 
after Wilfrid's arrival in Jarvis, "you read the soul of 
this stranger while I have only vague impressions of it. 
He chills me or else he excites me ; but j'ou seem to 
know the cause of this cold and of this heat ; tell me 
what it means, for you know all about him." 



100 Seraphita. 

" Yes, I have seen the causes," said Seraphitus, 
lowering his large eyelids. 

" By what power?" asked the curious Minna. 

" I have the gift of SpeciaUsm," he answered. " Spe- 
cialism is an inward sight which can penetrate all things ; 
you will only understand its full meaning through a com- 
parison. In the great cities of Europe where works are 
produced by which the human Hand seeks to represent 
the effects of the moral nature as well as those of the 
physical nature, there are glorious men who express 
ideas in marble. The sculptor acts on the stone ; he 
fashions it ; he puts a realm of ideas into it. There are 
statues which the hand of man has endowed with the 
faculty of representing the whole noble side of humanity, 
or the whole evil side ; most men see in such marbles a 
human figure and nothing more ; a few other men, a 
little higher in the scale of being, perceive a fraction of 
the thoughts expressed in the statue ; but the Initiates 
in the secrets of art are of the same intellect as the 
sculptor; they see in his work the whole universe of 
his thought. Such persons are in themselves the prin- 
ciples of art ; the}" bear within them a mirror which re- 
flects nature in her slightest manifestations. Well ! so 
it is with me ; I have within me a mirror before which 
the moral nature, with its causes and its eflects, appears 
and is reflected. Entering thus into the consciousness 
of others I am able to divine both the future and the 
past. How ? do you still ask how ? Imagine that the 
marble statue is the body of a man, a piece of statuary 
in which we see the emotion, sentiment, passion, vice 



Seraphita. 101 

or crime, virtue or repentance which the creating hand 
has put into it, and you will then comprehend how it 
is that I read the soul of this foreigner — though what 
I have said does not explain the gift of Specialism ; 
for to conceive the nature of that gift we must 
possess it." 

Though Wilfrid belonged to the two first divisions of 
humanit}', the men of force and the men of thought, j'et 
his excesses, his tumultuous life, and his misdeeds had 
often turned him towards Faith ; for doubt has two 
sides ; a side to the light and a side to the darkness. 
Wilfrid had too closely clasped the world under its 
forms of Matter and of Mind not to have acquired that 
thirst for the unknown, that longing to go beyond which 
lay their grasp upon the men who know, and wish, and 
will. But neither his knowledge, nor his actions, nor 
his will, had found direction. He had fled from social 
life from necessity ; as a great criminal seeks the clois- 
ter. Remorse, that virtue of weak beings, did not 
touch him. Remorse is impotence, impotence which 
sins again. Repentance alone is powerful ; it ends all. 
But in traversing the world, which he made his cloister, 
Wilfrid had found no balm for his wounds ; he saw 
nothing in nature to which he could attach himself. In 
him, despair had dried the sources of desire. He was 
one of those beings who, having gone through all 
passions and come out victorious, have nothing more to 
raise in their hot-beds, and who, lacking opportunity to 
put themselves at the head of their fellow-men to trample 
under iron heel entire populations, buy, at the price of 



102 Seraphita. 

a horrible martyrdom, the faculty of ruining themselves 
in some belief, — rocks sublime, which await the touch 
of a wand that comes not to bring the waters gushing 
from their far-off springs. 

Led by a scheme of his restless, inquiring life to the 
shores of Norway, the sudden arrival of winter had de- 
tained the wanderer at Jarvis. The day on which, for 
the first time, he saw Seraphita, the whole past of his 
life faded from his mind. The young girl excited emo- 
tions which he had thought could never be revived. 
The ashes gave forth a lingering flame at the first mur- 
murings of that voice. Who has ever felt himself return 
to 3'outh and purity after growing cold and numb with 
age and soiled with impurity? Suddenjj', Wilfrid loved 
as h e had .neyei loved j^e loved^ecretly, wit h faith , 
with fear, with inward madn ess. His life was stirred 
to the very source of being at the mere thought of 
seeing Seraphita. As he listened to her he was trans- 
ported into unknown worlds ; he was mute before her, 
she magnetized him. There, beneath the snows, among 
the glaciers, bloomed the celestial flower to which his 
hopes, so long betrayed, aspired ; the sight of which 
awakened ideas of freshness, purit}', and faith which 
grouped about his soul and lifted it to higher regions, — 
as Angels bear to heaven the Elect in those symbolic 
pictures inspired by the guardian spu-it of a great master. 
Celestial perfumes softened the granite hardness of the 
rocky scene ; light endowed with speech shed its divine 
melodies on the path of him who looked to heaven. 
After emptying the cup of terrestrial love which his 



SerapTiita. 103 

teeth had bitten as he drank it, he saw before him the 
chalice of salvation where the limpid waters sparkled, 
making thirsty for ineffable delights whoever dare appl}- 
his lips burning with a faith so strong that the crystal 
shall not be shattered. 

But Wilfrid now encountered the wall of brass for 
which he had been seeking up and down the earth. 
He went impetuousl}' to Seraphita, meaning to express 
the whole force and bearing of a passion under which 
he bounded like the fabled horse beneath the iron 
horseman, firm in his saddle, whom nothing moves 
while the efforts of the fiery animal only made the 
rider heavier and more solid. He sought her to re- 
late his life, — to prove the grandeur of his soul by 
the grandeur of his faults, to show the ruins of his 
desert. But no sooner had he crossed her threshold, 
and found himself within the zone of those ej-es of 
scintillating azure, that met no limits forward and left 
none behind, than he grew calm and submissive, as a 
lion, springing on his prey in the plains of Africa, re- 
ceives from the wings of the wind a message of love, 
and stops his bound. A gulf opened before him, into 
which his frenzied words fell and disappeared, and from 
which uprose a voice which changed his being ; he be- 
came as a child, a child of sixteen, timid and fright- 
ened before this maiden with serene brow, this white 
figure whose inalterable calm was like the cruel im- 
passibility of human justice. The combat between them 
had never ceased until this evening, when with a glance 
she brought him down, as a falcon making his dizzy 



104 Seraphita. 

spirals in the air around his prey causes it to fall 
stupefied to earth, before carrying it to his eyrie. 

We may note within ourselves many a long struggle 
the end of which is one of our own actions, — struggles 
which are, as it were, the reverse side of humanity. 
This reverse side belongs to God ; the obverse side to 
men. More than once Seraphita had proved to Wilfrid 
that she knew this hidden and ever varied side, which is 
to the majority of men a second being. Often she said 
to hira in her dove-like voice: "Why all this vehe- 
mence ? " when on his way to her he had sworn she should 
be his. Wilfrid was, however, strong enough to raise 
the cry of revolt to which he had given utterance in 
Monsieur Becker's study. The narrative of the old 
pastor had calmed him. Sceptical and derisive as he 
was, he saw belief like a sidereal brilliance dawn- 
ing on his life. He asked himself if Seraphita were 
not an exile from the higher spheres seeking the home- 
ward way. The fanciful deifications of all ordinary 
lovers he could not give to this lily of Norway in 
whose divinity he believed. Why lived she here be- 
side this fiord? What did she? Questions that re- 
ceived no answer filled his mind. Above all, what 
was about to happen between them? What fate had 
brought him there? To him, Seraphita was the motion- 
less marble, light nevertheless as a vapor, which Minna 
had seen that day poised above the precipices of the 
Falberg. Could she thus stand on the edge of all 
gulfs without danger, without a tremor of the arching 
eyebrows, or a quiver of the light of the eye? If 



Seraphita. 105 

his love was to be without hope, it was not without 
curiosity'. 

From the moment when Wilfrid suspected the ethe- 
real nature of the enchantress who had told him the 
secrets of his life in melodious utterance, he had longed 
to try to subject her, to keep her to himself, to tear her 
from the heaven where, perhaps, she was awaited. 
Earth and Humanity seized their prej' ; he would imi- 
tate them. His pride, the only sentiment through 
which man can long be exalted, would make him happy 
in this triumph for the rest of his life. The idea sent 
the blood boiling through his veins, and his heart 
swelled. If he did not succeed, he would destroy 
her, — it is so natural to destroy that which we cannot 
possess, to deny what we cannot comprehend, to insult 
that which we envy. 

On the morrow, Wilfrid, filled with ideas which the 
extraordinary' events of the previous night naturally 
awakened in his mind, resolved to question David, and 
went to find him on pretext of asking after Seraphita's 
health. Though Monsieur Becker spoke of the old ser- 
vant as falling into dotage, Wilfrid relied on his own 
perspicacity to discover scraps of truth in the torrent 
of the old man's rambling talk. 

David had the immovable, undecided, phj-siognomy 
of an octogenarian. Under his white hair lay a fore- 
head lined with wrinkles like the stone courses of a 
ruined wall ; and his face was furrowed like the bed 
of a dried-up torrent. His life seemed to have re- 
treated wholly to the eyes, where light still shone. 



106 SerapMta. 

though its gleams were obscured by a mistiness which 
seemed to indicate either an active mental alienation 
or the stupid stare of drunkenness. His slow and 
heavy movements betrayed the glacial weight of age, 
and communicated an icy influence to whoever allowed 
themselves to look long at him, — for he possessed the 
magnetic force of torpor. His limited intelligence was 
onl}' roused by the sight, the hearing, or the recollec- 
tion of his mistress. She was the soul of this wholly 
material fragment of an existence. Any one seeing 
David alone by himself would have thought him a 
corpse ; let Seraphita enter, let her voice be heard, or 
a mention of her be made, and the dead came forth 
from his grave and recovered speech and motion. 
The dry bones were not more truly awakened by the 
divine breath in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and never 
was that apocalyptic vison better realized than in this 
Lazarus issuing from the sepulchre into life at the 
voice of a j'oung girl. His language, which was al- 
ways figurative and often incomprehensible, prevented 
the inhabitants of the village from talking with him ; 
but they respected a mind that deviated so utterly 
from common ways, — a thing which the masses in- 
stinctively admire. 

Wilfrid found him in the antechamber, apparently 
asleep beside the stove. Like a dog who recognizes 
a friend of the family, the old man raised his eyes, saw 
the foreigner, and did not stir. 

"Where is she?" inquired Wilfrid, sitting down 
beside him. 



Seraphita. 107 

David fluttered his fingers in the air as if to express 
the flight of a bird. 

" Does she still sufler?" asked Wilfrid. 

" Beings vowed to Heaven are able so to suffer 
that suflering does not lessen their love ; this is the 
mark of the true faith," answered the old man, sol- 
emnly, Kke an instrument which, on being touched, 
gives forth an accidental note. 

" Who taught you those words? " 

" The Spirit." 

" What happened to her last night? Did you force 
your way past the Vertumni standing sentinel? did 
you evade the Mammons ? " 

" Yes ; " answered David, as though awaking from a 
dream. 

The misty gleam of his eyes melted into a ray that 
came direct from the soul and made it by degrees 
brilliant as that of an eagle, as intelligent as that of 
a poet. 

" What did you see?" asked Wilfrid, astonished at 
this sudden change. 

" I saw Species and Shapes ; I heard the Spirit of all 
things ; I beheld the revolt of the Evil Ones ; I listened 
to the words of the Good. Seven devils came, and 
seven archangels descended from on high. The arch- 
angels stood apart and looked on through veils. The 
devils were close by ; they shone, they acted. Mam- 
mon came on his pearly shell in the shape of a beautiful 
naked woman ; her snow}' body dazzled the e3'e, no 
cuman form ever equalled it ; and he said, ' I am 



108 Seraphita. 

Pleasure ; thou shalt possess me ! ' Lucifer, prince of 
serpents, was there in sovereign robes ; his Manhood 
was glorious as the beauty of an angel, and he said, 
' Humanity shall be at thy feet ! ' The Queen of 
misers, — she who gives back naught that she has ever 
received, — the Sea, came wrapped in her virent man- 
tle ; she opened her bosom, she showed her gems, she 
brought forth her treasures and offered them ; waves of 
sapphire and of emerald came at her bidding ; her 
hidden wonders stirred, they rose to the surface of her 
breast, they spoke ; the rarest pearl of Ocean spread 
its irridescent wings and gave voice to its marine 
melodies, saying, ' Twin daughter of suffering, we are 
sisters ! await me ; let us go together ; all I need 
is to become a Woman.' The Bird with the wings of 
an eagle and the paws of a lion, the head of a woman 
and the body of a horse, the Animal, fell down before 
her and licked her feet, and promised seven hundred 
years of plenty to her best-beloved daughter. Then 
came the most formidable of all, the Child, weeping 
at her knees, and saving, ' Wilt thou leave me, feeble 
and suffering as I am ? oh, my mother, staj^ ! ' and he 
played with her, and shed languor on the air, and the 
Heavens themselves had pity for his wail. The Virgin 
of pure song brought forth her choirs to relax the soul. 
The Kings of the East came with their slaves, their 
armies, and their women ; the Wounded asked her for 
succor, the Sorrowful stretched forth their hands : ' Do 
not leave us ! do not leave us ! ' they cried. I, too, I 
cried, ' Do not leave us! we adore thee I stay!' 



Seraphita, 109 

Flowers, bursting from the seed, bathed her in their 
fragrance which uttered, ' Stay ! ' The giant Enakim 
came forth from Jupiter, leading Gold and its friends 
and all the Spirits of the Astral Regions which are 
joined with him, and they said, ' We are thine for 
seven hundred years.' At last came Death on his pale 
horse, crying, ' I will obey thee ! ' One and all feU 
prostrate before her. Could you but have seen them ! 
They covered as it were a vast plain, and they cried 
aloud to her, ' We have nurtured thee, thou art our 
child ; do not abandon us ! ' At length Life issued 
from her Ruby Waters, and said, ' I will not leave 
thee ! ' then, finding Seraphita silent, she flamed upon 
her as the sun, crying out, ' I am light ! ' ' The Light 
is there ! ' cried Seraphita, pointing to the clouds where 
stood the archangels ; but she was wearied out ; Desire 
had wrung her nerves, she could only cry, ' My God ! 
my God ! ' Ah ! many an Angelic Spirit, scaling the 
mountain and nigh to the summit, has set his foot upon 
a rolling stone which plunged him back into the abyss ! 
All these lost Spirits adored her constanc}- ; they stood 
around her, — a choir without a song, — weeping and 
whispering, ' Courage ! ' At last she conquered ; De- 
sire — let loose upon her in every Shape and every 
Species — was vanquished. She stood in praj'er, and 
when at last her ej-es were lifted she saw the feet of 
Angels circling in the Heavens." 

" She saw the feet of Angels? " repeated Wilfrid. 

" Yes," said the old man. 

" Was it a dream that she told you? " asked Wilfrid. 



110 Seraphita. 

"A dream as real as your life," answered David; 
" I was there." 

The calm assurance of the old servaut affected Wil- 
frid powerfully. He went away asking himself whether 
these visions were an}' less extraordinary than those he 
had read of in Swedenborg the night before. 

" If Spirits exist, they must act," he was saving to 
himself as he entered the parsonage, where he found 
Monsieur Becker alone. 

" Dear pastor," he said, " Seraphita is connected 
with us in form only, and even that form is inexpli- 
cable. Do not think me a madman or a lover ; a pro- 
found conviction cannot be argued with. Convert my 
behef into scientific theories, and let us try to enlighten 
each other. To-morrow evening we shall both be with 
her." 

" What then? " said Monsieur Becker. 

" If her eye ignores space," replied Wilfrid, " if her 
thought is an intelligent sight which enables her to 
perceive all things in their essence, and to connect 
them with the general evolution of the universe, if, in 
a word, she sees and knows all, let us seat the Pytho- 
ness on her tripod, let us force this pitiless eagle by 
threats to spread its wings ! Help me ! I breathe a 
fire which burns my vitals ; I must quench it or it will 
consume me. I have found a prey at last, and it shall 
be mine ! " 

" The conquest wOl be diflScult," said the pastor, 
*' because this girl is — " 

"Is what?" cried Wilfrid. 



Seraphita. Ill 

" Mad," said the old man. 

" I will not dispute her madness, but neither must 
you dispute her wonderful powers. Dear Monsieur 
Becker, she has often confounded me with her learnino-. 
Has she travelled ? " 

" From her house to the fiord, no further." 

" Never left this place ! " exclaimed Wilfrid. "Then 
she must have read immensel}'." 

" Not a page, not one iota ! I am the onl}' person 
who possesses any books in Jarvis. The works of 
Swedeuborg — the only books that were in the chateau 
— you see before you. She has never looked into a 
single one-of them." 

' ' Have you tried to talk with her ? " 

" What good would that do? " 

" Does no one live with her in that house? " 

" She has no friends but you and Minna, nor any 
servant except old David." 

" It cannot be that she knows nothing of science nor 
of art." 

" Who should teach her? " said the pastor. 

" But if she can discuss such matters pertinently, 
as she has often done with me, what do you make 
of it?" 

" The girl ma}' have acquired through years of silence 
the faculties enjoyed b}' Apollonius of Tyana and other 
pretended sorcerers burned by the Inquisition, which 
did not choose to admit the fact of second-sight. 

" If she can speak Arabic, what would you say to 
that?" 



112 Seraphita. 

" The histor}- of medical science gives many authentic 
instances of girls who have spoken languages entirely 
unknown to them." 

" What can I do?" exclaimed Wilfrid. " She knows 
of secrets in my past life known only to me." 

" I shall be curious to see if she can tell me thoughts 
that I have confided to no living person," said Monsieur 
Becker. 

Minna entered the room. 

" Well, my daughter, and how is your familiar 
spirit?" 

" He suffers, father," she answered, bowing to Wil- 
frid. " Human passions, clothed in their false riches, 
surrounded him all night, and showed him all the glories 
of the world. But you think these things mere tales." 

" Tales as beautiful to those who read them in their 
brains as the ' Arabian Nights ' to common minds," said 
the pastor, smiling. 

" Did not Satan carry our Saviour to the pinnacle 
of the Temple, and show him all the kingdoms of the 
world ? " she said. 

" The Evangelists," replied her father, " did not 
correct their copies very carefully', and several versions 
are in existence." 

" You believe in the reality of these visions?" said 
Wilfrid to Minna. 

" Who can doubt when he relates them." 

" He? " demanded Wilfrid. " Who? " 

" He who is there," replied Minna, motioning towards 
the chateau. 



Seraphita. IIS 

** Are you speaking of Serapliita? " he said. 

The young girl bent her head, and looked at him with 
an expression of gentle mischief. 

" You too ! " exclaimed Wilfrid, " you take pleasure 
in confounding me. Who and what is she? What do 
you think of her?" 

" What I feel is inexplicable," said Minna, blushing. 

*' You are all crazy ! " cried the pastor. 

*' Farewell, until to-morrow evening," said Wilfrid. 



114 Seraphita, 



IV. \ 

THE CLOUDS OF THE SANCTUARY. 

There are pageants in which all the material splen- 
dors that man arra3'S co-operate. Nations of slaves anci 
divers have searched the sands of ocean and the bowels 
of earth for the pearls and diamonds which adorn the 
spectators. Transmitted as heirlooms from generation 
to generation, these treasures have shone on consecrated 
brows and could be the most faithful of historians had 
they speech. They know the joys and sorrows of the 
great and those of the small. Everywhere do they go ; 
they are worn with pride at festivals, carried in despair 
to usurers, borne off in triumph amid blood and pillage, 
enshrined in masterpieces conceived by art for their 
protection. Noiie, except the pearl of Cleopatra, has 
been lost. The Great and the Fortunate assemble to 
witness the coronation of some king, whose trappings 
are the work of men's hands, bi^t the purple of who se 
raimentis^figs^^gloriiiuja th an that of tl^p "Br^ wprs of i^e 
field. These festivals, splendid in light, bathed in 
music which the hand of man creates, aye, all the 
triumphs of that hand are subdued b}" a thought, VV 
crushed by a sentiment. The Mind can illumine in a 
I / man and round a man a light more vivid, can open his 
Lj€ar to more melodious harmonies, can seat him on 



Seraphita. jj^ 

clouds of shining constellations and teach him to ques- 
tion them. The Heart can do still greater things. 
Man may come into the presence of one sole being a°nd 
find in a single word, a single look, an influence so 
weighty to bear, of so luminous a light, so penetrating 
a sound, that he succumbs and kneels before it. The 
most real of all splendors are not in outward things, ll 
/'/they are within us. A single secret of Science is° a 
realm of wonders to the man of learning. Do the 
trumpets of Power, the jewels of Wealth, the music of 
Joy, or a vast concourse of people attend his mental 
festival? No, he finds his glory in some dim retreat 
where, perchance, a pallid suffering man whispers a 
single word into his ear; that word, like a torch 
lighted in a mine, reveals to him a Science. All human 
ideas, arrayed in every attractive form which Mystery 
can invent surrounded a blind man seated in a wayside 
ditch. Three worlds, the Natural, the Spiritual, the 
Divine, with all their spheres, opened their portals to a 
Florentine exile ; he walked attended by the Hapi^y and 
the Unhappy; by those who prayed and those who 
moaned ; by angels and by souls in hell. When the 
Sent of God, who knew and could accomplish all things, 
appeared to three of his disciples it was at eventide, at 
the common table of the humblest of inns ; and then/ ] 
and there the Light broke forth, shattering Material/ ' 
Forms, iUuminating the Spiritual Faculties, so that they^ 
saw him in his glory, and the earth lay at their feet liket \ 
a cast-ofi" sandal. 

Monsieur Becker, Wilfrid, and Minna were all under 



116 Seraphita. 

the influence of fear as the}' took their way to meet the 
extraordinary being whom each desired to question. 
To them, in their several ways, the Swedish castle had 
grown to mean some gigantic representation, some 
spectacle like those whose colors and masses are skil- 
fully and harmoniously marshalled by the poets, and 
whose personages, imaginary actors to men, are real to 
those who begin to penetrate the Spiritual World. On 
the tiers of this Coliseum Monsieur Becker seated the 
gray legions of Doubt, the stern ideas, the specious 
formulas of Dispute. He convoked the various antago- 
nistic worlds of philosophy and religion, and they all 
appeared, in the guise of a fleshless shape, like that in 
which art embodies Time, — an old man bearing in one 
hand a scythe, in the other a broken globe, the human 
universe. 

Wilfrid had bidden to the scene his earliest illusions 
and his latest hopes, human destiny and its conflicts, 
religion and its conquering powers. 

Minna saw heaven confusedly by glimpses ; love 
raised a curtain wrought with mysterious images, and 
the melodious sounds which met her ear redoubled her 
curiosity. 

To all three, therefore, this evening was to be what 
that other evening had been for the pilgrims to Emmaiis, 
what a vision was to Dante, an inspiration to Homer, — • 
to them, three aspects of the world revealed, veils rent 
away, doubts dissipated, darkness illumined. Human- 
ity in all its moods expecting light could not be better 
represented than here by this young girl, this man in 



Seraphita. 117 

the vigor of his age, and these old men, of whom one 
■was learned enough to doubt, the other ignorant enough 
to believe. Never was an3^ scene more simple in ap- 
pearance, nor more portentous in reality. 

When the}' entered the room, ushered in by old 
David, they found Seraphita standing by a table on 
which were served the various dishes which compose a 
"tea;" a form of collation which in the North takes 
the place of wine and its pleasures, — reserved more ex- 
clusively for Southern climes. Certainly nothing pro- 
claimed in her, or in him, a being with the strange power 
of appearing under two distinct forms ; nothing about 
her betrayed the manifold powers which she wielded. 
Lilie a careful housewife attending to the comfort of 
her guests, she ordered David to put more wood into 
the stove. 

" Good evening, my neighbors," she said. " Dear 
Monsieur Becker, you do right to come ; you see me 
living for the last time, perhaps. This winter has killed 
me. Will 3-ou sit there? " she said to Wilfrid. " And 
you, Minna, here?" pointing to a chair beside her. " I 
see you have brought your embroider}'. Did you invent 
that stitch ? the design is verj'^ pretty. For whom is it, — 
your father, or monsieur? " she added, turning to Wilfrid. 
" Surely we ought to give him, before we part, a remem- 
brance of the daughters of Norway." 

" Did you suffer much j-esterday ? " asked Wilfrid. 

"It was nothing," she answered; "the suffering 
gladdened me ; it was necessary, to enable me to leave 
this Ufe." 



118 Seraphita. 

"Then death does not alarm you?" said Monsieur 
Becker, smiling, for he did not think her ill. 

" No, dear pastor ; there are two ways of dying : to 
some, death is victory, to others, defeat." 

' ' Do you think that you have conquered ? " asked 
Minna. 

" I do not know," she said, " perhaps I have only 
taken a step in the path." 

The lustrous splendor of her brow grew dim, her 
eyes were veiled beneath slow-dropping lids ; a simple 
movement which affected the prying guests and kept 
them silent. Monsieur Becker was the first to recover 
courage. 

"Dear child," he said, " j'ou are truth itself, and 
you are ever kind. I would ask of you to-night some- 
thing other than the dainties of 3'our tea-table. If we 
may believe certain persons, j'ou know amazing things ; 
if this be true, would it not be charitable in vou to solve 
a few of our doubts ? " 

"Ah!" she said smiling, "I walk on the clouds. 
I visit the depths of the fiord ; the sea is my steed and 
I bridle it ; I know where the singing flower grows, and 
the talking light descends, and fragrant colors shine ! 
I wear the seal of Solomon ; I am a fairy ; I cast my 
orders to the wind which, like an abject slave, fulfils 
them ; my eyes can pierce the earth and behold its 
treasures ; for lo ! am I not the virgin to whom the 
pearls dart from their ocean depths and — " 

" — who led me safely to the summit of the Fal- 
berg?" said Minna, interrupting her. 



Seraphita. jjq 

"Thou! thou too!" exclaimed the strange being 
with a luminous glance at the young girl which fiUed 
her soul with trouble. " Had I not the faculty of read- 
ing through your foreheads the desires which have 
brought you here, should I be what you think I am?" 
she said, encircling aU thi-ee with her controUina o-lance 
to David's great satisfaction. The old man rubbled his 
hands with pleasure as he left the room. 

"Ah!" she resumed after a pause, "you have 
come, all of you, with the curiosity of children. You 
my poor Monsieur Becker, have asked yourself how it 
was possible that a girl of seventeen should know even 
a single one of those secrets which men of science seek 
with their noses to the earth, - instead of raising their 
eyes to heaven. Were I to tell you how and a't what 
pomt the plant merges into the animal you would 
begin to doubt your doubts. You have plotted to 
question me; you will admit that?" 

" Yes, dear Seraphita," answered Wilfrid ; "but the 
desire is a natural one to men, is it not? " 

" You will bore this dear child with such topics," she 
said, passing her hand lightly over Minna's hair with a 
caressing gesture. 

The young girl raised her eyes and seemed as though 
she longed to lose herself in him. 

" Speech is the endowment of us all," resumed the 
mysterious creature, gravely. "Woe to him who 
keeps silence, even in a desert, believing that no one 
hears him ; all voices speak and all ears listen here be- 
low. Speech moves the universe. Monsieur Becker, 



120 Seraphita. 

I desire to say nothing unnecessarily. I know the 
difficulties that beset your mind ; would you not think 
it a miracle if I were now to lay bare the past history 
of your consciousness? Well, the miracle shall be 
accomplished. You have never admitted to yourself 
the fall extent of j'our doubts. I alone, immovable in 
my faith, I can show it to you ; I can terrify you with 
yourself. 

" You stand on the darkest side of Doubt. You do 
not believe in God, — although you know it not, — and 
all things here below are secondary to him who rejects 
the first principle of things. Let us leave aside the 
fruitless discussions of false philosophy. The spirit- 
ualist generations made as man}- and as vain efforts 
to den}' Matter as the materialist generations have 
made to den}^ Spirit. "Why such discussions? Does 
not man himself offer irrefragable proof of both sj's- 
tems? Do we not find in him material things and 
spiritual things? None but a madman can refuse to 
see in the human body a fragment of Matter ; j^our 
natural sciences, when they decompose it, find little 
difference between its elements and those of other 
animals. On the other hand, the idea produced in 
man by the comparison of many objects has never 
seemed to any one to belong to the domain of Mat- 
ter. As to this, I offer no opinion. I am now con- 
cerned with your doubts, not with my certainties. To 
you, as to the majority of thinkers, the relations be- 
tween things, the realit}' of which is proved to j'ou by 
your sensations and which j'ou possess the faculty to 



tSeraphita. 121 

discover, do not seem Material. The Natural universe 
of things and beings ends, in man, with the Spiritual 
universe of similarities or differences which he perceives 
among the innumerable forms of Nature, — relations so 
multiplied as to seem infinite ; for if, up to the present 
time, no one has been able to enumerate the separate 
terrestrial creations, who can reckon their correlations? 
Is not the fraction which you know, in relation to their 
totalitv, what a single number is to infinity ? Here, then, 
you fall into a perception of the infinite which undoubt- 
edly obliges you to conceive of a purely Spiritual world. 
" Thus man himself offers sufficient proof of the two 
orders, — Matter and Spirit. In him culminates a visi- 
ble finite universe ; in him begins a universe invisible 
and infinite, — two worlds unknown to each other. 
Have the pebbles of the fiord a perception of their 
combined being? have they a consciousness of the 
colors the}' present to the eye of man ? do they hear the 
music of the waves that lap them? Let us therefore 
spring over and not attempt to sound the abysmal 
depths presented to our minds in the union of a 
Material universe and a Spiritual universe, — a crea- 
tion visible, ponderable, tangible, terminating in a crea- 
tion invisible, imponderable, intangible ; completely 
dissimilar, separated by the void, yet united by in- 
disputable bonds and meeting in a being who derives 
equally from the one and from the other! Let us 
mingle in one world these two worlds, absolutely irrec- 
oncilable to your philosophies, but conjoined by fact. 
However abstract man may suppose the relation which 



122 Seraphita. 

binds two things together, the line of junction is per- 
ceptible- How ? Where ? We are not now in search of 
the vanishing point where Matter subtilizes. If such 
were the question, I cannot see why He who has, by 
physical relations, studded with stars at immeasurable 
distances the heavens which veil Him, may not have 
created solid substances, nor why you deny Him the 
faculty of giving a body to thought. 

'< Thus your invisible moral universe and your visible 
phj^sical universe are one and the same matter. We 
will not separate properties from substances, nor ob- 
jects from effects. All that exists, all that presses upon 
us and overwhelms us from above or from below, before 
us or in us, all that which our eyes and our minds per- 
ceive, all these named and unnamed things compose — 
in order to fit the problem of Creation to the measure 
of your logic — a block of finite Matter ; but were it 
infinite, God would still not be its master. Now, 
reasoning with your views, dear pastor, no matter in 
what way God the infinite is concerned with this block 
of finite Matter, He cannot exist and retain the attri- 
butes with which man invests Him. Seek Him in facts, 
and He is not ; ask reason to reveal Him, and again 
He is not; spirituall}' and materially, you have made 
God impossible. Listen to the Word of human Reason 
forced to its ultimate conclusions. 

" In bringing God face to face with the Great Whole, 
we see that only two states are possible between them, 
— either God and Matter are contemporaneous, or God 
existed alone before Matter. Were Reason — the light 



Seraphita. 123 

that has guided the human race from the dawn of its 
existence — accumulated in one brain, even that mighty 
brain could not invent a thu-d mode of being without 
suppressing both Matter and God. Let human phi- 
losophies pile mountain upon mountain of words and 
of ideas, let religions accumulate images and beliefs, 
revelations and mysteries, you must face at last this 
terrible dilemma and choose between the two proposi- 
tions which compose it ; you have no option, and one 
as much as the other leads human reason to Doubt. 

" The problem thus estabUshed, what signifies Spirit 
or Matter? Why trouble about the march of the worlds 
in one direction or in another, since the Being who 
guides them is shown to be an absurdity ? Why con- 
tinue to ask whether man is approaching heaven or 
receding from it, whether creation is rising towards 
Spirit or descending towards Matter, if the questioned 
universe gives no reply? What signifies theogonies 
and their armies, theologies and their dogmas, since 
whichever side of the problem is man's choice, his God 
exists not? Let us for a moment take up the first 
proposition, and suppose God contemporaneous with 
Matter. Is subjection to the action or the co-existence 
of an alien substance consistent with being God at all? 
In such a S3'stem, would not God become a secondary 
agent compelled to organize Matter? If so, who com- 
pelled Him ? Between His material gross companion and 
Himself, who was the arbiter? Who paid the wages of 
the six days' labor imputed to the great Designer? Has 
any determining force been found which was neither 



124 Seraphita. 

God nor Matter? God being regarded as the manu- 
facturer of the machiner}' of the worlds, is it not as 
ridiculous to call Him God as to call the slave who 
turned a grindstone a Roman citizen? Besides, an- 
other difficulty, as insoluble to this supreme human 
reason as it is to God, presents itself. 

" If we carry the problem higher, shall we not be like 
the Hindus, who put the world upon a tortoise, the 
tortoise on an elephant, and do not know on what the 
feet of their elephant may rest? This supreme will, 
issuing from the contest between God and Matter, 
this God, this more than God, can He have existed 
throughout eternity without willing what He afterwards 
willed, — admitting that Elternity can be divided into 
two eras. No matter where God is, what becomes of 
His intuitive intelligence if He did not know His ulti- 
mate thought? Which, then, is the true Eternity, — 
the created Eternity or the uncreated? But if God 
throughout all time did will the world such as it is, 
this new necessity, which harmonizes with the idea 
of sovereign intelligence, imijlies the co-eternity of 
Matter. "Whether Matter be co-eternal by a divine 
will necessarily accordant with itself from the begin- 
ning, or whether Matter be co-eternal of its own being, 
the power of God, which must be absolute, perishes if 
His will is circumscribed ; for in that case God would 
find within Him a determining force which would con- 
trol Him. Can He be God if He can no more separate 
Himself from His creation in a past eternity than in the 
coming eternity ? 



Seraphita. 125 

" This face of the problem is insoluble in its cause. 
Let us now inquire into its effects. If a God compelled 
to have created the world from all eternity seems in- 
explicable, He is quite as unintelligible in perpetual 
cohesion with His work. God, constrained to live 
eternal!}' united to His creation is held down to His 
first position as workman. Can 3'ou conceive of a 
God who shall be neither independent of nor depend- 
ent on His work ? Could He destro}' that work with- 
out challenging Himself ? Ask j-ourself, and decide 1 
Whether He destroys it some da^-, or whether He never 
destroys it, either wa}^ is fatal to the attributes without 
which God cannot exist. Is the world an experiment ? 
is it a perishable form to which destruction must come f 
If it is, is not God inconsistent and impotent? incon- 
sistent, because He ought to have seen the result before 
the attempt, — moreover wh}- should He delay to destro}' 
that which He is to destro}' ? — impotent, for how else 
could He have created an imperfect man? 

"K an imperfect creation contradicts the faculties 
which man attributes to God we are forced back upoR 
the question. Is creation perfect? The idea is in har* 
mony with that of a God supremely intelligent who 
could make no mistakes ; but then, what means the 
degradation of His work, and its regeneration ? More- 
over, a perfect world is, necessarily, indestructible ; its 
forms would not perish, it could neither advance nor 
recede, it would revolve in the everlasting circumfer- 
ence from which it would never issue. In that case 
God would be dependent on His work ; it would be co 



126 SerapUta. 

eternal with Him ; and so we fall back into one of the 
propositions most antagonistic to God. If the world 
is imperfect, it can progress ; if perfect, it is stationar}-. 
On the other hand, if it be impossible to admit of a 
progressive God ignorant through a past eternity of the 
results of His creative work, can there be a stationary 
God? would not that imply the triumph of Matter? 
would it not be the greatest of all negations ? Under 
the first hypothesis God perishes through weakness ; 
under the second through the force of His inertia- 

" Therefore, to all sincere minds the supposition that 
Matter, in the conception and execution of the worlds, 
is contemporaneous with God, is to deny God. Forced 
to choose, in order to govern the nations, between the 
two alternatives of the problem, whole generations have 
preferred this solution of it. Hence the doctrine of the 
two principles of Magianism, brought from Asia and 
adopted in Europe under the form of Satan warring 
with the Eternal Father. But this religious formula 
and the innumerable aspects of divinity that have 
sprung from it are surely crimes against the Majesty 
Divine. What other term can we apply to the belief 
which sets up as a rival to God a personification of 
Evil, striving eternally against the Omnipotent Mind 
without the possibility of ultimate triumph? Your 
statics declare that two Forces thus pitted against each 
other are reciprocally rendered null. 

" Do 3'ou turn back, therefore, to the other side of 
the problem, and say that Go'J ore-existed, original, 
alone ? 



Serajphita. 127 

•' I will not go over the preceding arguments (which 
here return in full force) as to the severance of Eter- 
nit}' into two parts ; nor the questions raised by the 
progression or the immobility of the worlds ; let us 
look only at the difficulties inherent to this second 
theory. If God pre-existed alone, the world must have 
emanated from Him ; Matter was therefore drawn from 
His essence ; consequently Matter in itself is non- 
existent ; all forms are veils to cover the Divine Spirit 
If this be so, the "World is Eternal, and also it must be 
God. Is not this proposition even more fatal than the 
former to the attributes conferred on God by human 
reason? How can the actual condition of Matter be 
explained if we suppose it to issue from the bosom of 
God and to be ever united with Him? Is it possible 
to believe that the All-Powerful, supremelj- good in 
His essence and in His faculties, has engendered things 
dissimilar to Himself. Must He not in all things and 
through all things be like unto Himself? Can there be 
in God certain evil parts of which at some future day 
he may rid Himself? — a conjecture less offensive and 
absurd than terrible, for the reason that it drags back 
into Him the two principles which the preceding theory 
proved to be inadmissible. God must be One ; He can- 
not be divided without renouncing the most important 
condition of His existence. It is therefore impossible 
to admit of a fraction of God which j'ct is not God. 
This hypothesis seemed so criminal to the Roman 
Church that she has made the omnipresence of God in 
the least particles of the Eucharist an article of faith. 



128 Seraphita. 

"But how then can we imagine an omnipotent mind 
which does not triumph? How associate it unless in 
triumph with Nature ? But Nature is not triumphant ; 
she seeks, combines, remodels, dies, and is born again ; 
she is even more convulsed when creating than when 
all was fusion ; Nature suffers, groans, is ignorant, de- 
generates, does evil ; deceives herself, annihilates her- 
self, disappears, and begins again. If God is associated 
with Nature, how can we explain the inoperative in- 
difference of the divine principle? Wherefore death? 
How came it that Evil, king of the earth, was born of 
a God supremely good in His essence and in His facul- 
ties, who can produce nothing that is not made in His 
own image? 

" But if, from this relentless conclusion which leads 
at once to absurdity, we pass to details, what end are 
we to assign to the world ? If all is God, all is recipro- 
cally cause and effect ; all is One as God is One, and 
we can perceive neither points of likeness nor points of 
difference. Can the real end be a rotation of Matter 
which subtilizes and disappears? In whatever sense it 
were done, would not this mechanical trick of Matter 
issuing from God and returning to God seem a sort of 
child's play? Why should God make himself gross 
with Matter? Under which form is he most God? 
Which has the ascendant, Matter or Spirit, when 
neither can in any way do wrong? Who can compre- 
hend the Deity engaged in this perpetual business, by 
which he divides Himself into two Natures, one of which 
knows nothing, while the other knows all? Can you 



Seraphita. 129 

conceive of God amusing Himself in the form of man, 
laughing at His own efforts, dying Friday, to be born 
again Sunda}', and continuing this pla}' from age to 
age, knowing the end from all eternity, and telling 
nothing to Himself, the Creature, of what He the 
Creator, does ? The God of the preceding hypothesis, 
a God so nugatorj' by the very power of His inertia, 
seems the more possible of the two if we are compelled 
to choose between the impossibilities with which this 
God, so dull a jester, fusillades Himself when two sec- 
tions of humanit}' argue face to face, weapons in hand. 
"However absurd this outcome of the second problem 
may seem, it was adopted by half the human race in 
the sunny lands where smiling mythologies were cre- 
ated. Those amorous nations were consistent ; with 
them all was God, even Fear and its dastard}', even 
crime and its bacchanals. If we accept pantheism, — 
the religion of man}' a great human genius, — who shall 
say where the greater reason lies ? Is it with the savage, 
free in the desert, clothed in his nudit}', listening to the 
sun, talking to the sea, sublime and alwa3's true in his 
deeds whatever the}' may be ; or shall we find it in civi- 
lized man, who derives his chief enjoyments through 
lies ; who wrings Nature and all her resources to put a 
musket on his shoulder ; who employs his intellect to 
hasten the hour of his death and to create diseases out 
of pleasures? When the rake of pestilence and the 
ploughshare of war and the demon of desolation have 
passed over a corner of the globe and obliterated all 
things, who will be found to have the greater reason, — 

9 



130 Seraphita. 

the Nubian savage or the patrician of Thebes ? Youi 
doubts descend the scale, they go from heights to 
depths, they embrace all, the end as well as the 
means. 

" But if the physical world seems inexplicable, the 
moral world presents still stronger arguments against 
God. Where, then, is progress? If all things are in- 
deed moving toward perfection wh}" do we die 3-oung? 
why do not nations perpetuate themselves? The world 
having issued from God and being contained in God 
can it be stationary? Do we live once, or do we 
live always? If we live once, hurried onward by the 
march of the Great- Whole, a knowledge of which has 
not been given to us, let us act as we please. If we 
are eternal, let things take their course. Is the created 
being guilty if he exists at the instant of the transi- 
tions? If he sins at the moment of a great transfor- 
mation will he be punished for it after being its victim ? 
What becomes of the Divine goodness if we are not 
transferred to the regions of the blest — should any 
such exist? What becomes of God's prescience if He 
is ignorant of the results of the trials to which He sub- 
jects us? What is this alternative offered to man by all 
religions, — either to boil in some eternal cauldron or to 
walk in white robes, a palm in his hand and a halo 
round his head? Can it be that this pagan invention 
is the final word of God ? Where is the generous soul 
who does not feel that the calculating virtue which 
seeks the eternity of pleasure offered b}' all religions 
to whoever fulfils at stray moments certain fancifu] 



Seraphita. \2)\. 

and often unnatural conditions, is unworthy of man 
and of God ? Is it not a mockery to give to man im- 
petuous senses and forbid him to satisfy them? Be- 
sides, what mean these ascetic objections if Good and 
Evil are equally abolished? Does Evil exist? If sub- 
stance in all its forms is God, then Evil is God. The 
faculty of reasoning as well as the faculty of feeling 
having been given to man to use, nothing can be more 
excusable in him than to seek to know the meanino- of 
human suffering and the prospects of the future. 

" If these rigid and rigorous arguments lead to such 
conclusions confusion must reign. The world would 
have no fixedness; nothing would advance, nothino- 
would pause, all would change, nothing would be de- 
stroyed, all would reappear after self-renovation; for 
if your mind does not clearly demonstrate to you an 
end, it is equally impossible to demonstrate the de- 
struction of the smallest particle of Matter ; Matter can 
transform but not annihilate itself. 

" Though blind force may provide arguments for the 
atheist, intelligent force is inexplicable ; for if it ema- 
nates from God, why should it meet with obstacles? 
ought not its triumph to be immediate ? "Where is God ? 
If the living cannot perceive Him, can the dead find 
Him ? Crumble, ye idolatries and ye religions ! Fall, 
feeble keystones of all social arches, powerless to 
retard the decay, the death, the obhvion that have 
overtaken all nations however firmly founded! Fall, 
morality and justice ! our crimes are purely relative ; 
they are divine efiects whose causes we are not allowed 



132 Seraphita. 

to know. All is God. Either we are God or God ia 
not ! — Child of a century whose every year has laid 
upon 3'our brow, old man, the ice of its unbelief, here, 
here is the summing up of your lifetime of thought, 
of your science and your reflections ! Dear Monsieur 
Becker, 3'ou have laid your head on the pillow of 
Doubt, because it is the easiest of solutions ; acting 
in this respect with the majority of mankind, who 
say in their hearts : ' Let us think no more of these 
problems, since God has not vouchsafed to grant us 
the algebraic demonstrations that could solve them, 
while He has given us so many other ways to get from 
earth to heaven.' 

" Tell me, dear pastor, are not these your secret 
thoughts? Have I evaded the point of any? nay, 
rather, have I not clearlj' stated all? First, in the 
dogma of two principles, — an antagonism in which 
God pei'ishes for the reason that being All-Powerful 
He chose to combat. Secondl}', in the absurd panthe- 
ism where, all being God, God exists no longer. These 
two sources, from which have flowed all the religions 
for whose triumph Earth has toiled and prayed, are 
equally pernicious. Behold in them the double-bladed 
axe with which you decapitate the white old man whom 
you enthrone among your painted clouds ! And now, 
to me the axe I wield it ! " 

Monsieur Becker and Wilfrid gazed at the young girl 
with something like terror. 

" To believe," continued Seraphita, in her Woman's 
voice, for the Man had finished speaking, " to believe 



Seraphita. I33 

is a gift. To believe is to feel. To believe in God we 
must feel God. This feeling is a possession slowly 
acquired by the human being, just as other astonishin^r 
powers which you admire in great men, warriors, artists, 
scholars, those who know and those who act, are ac- 
quired. Thought, that budget of the relations which 
you perceive among created things, is an intellectual 
language which can be learned, is it not? Belief, the 
budget of celestial truths, is also a language as superior 
to thought as thought is to instinct. This lanjruao-e 
also can be learned. The Believer answers with a 
single cry, a single gesture ; Faith puts within his hand 
a flaming sword with which he pierces and illumines 
all. The Seer attains to heaven and descends not. 
But there are beings who believe and see, who know 
and will, who love and pray and wait. Submissive, 
yet aspiring to the kingdom of light, they have neither 
the aloofness of the Believer nor the silence of the Seer ; 
they listen and reply. To them the doubt of the twi- 
light ages is not a murderous weapon, but a divining 
rod ; they accept the contest under every form ; they 
train their tongues to every language ; they are never 
angered, though they groan ; the acrimony of the ag- 
gressor is not in them, but rather the softness and 
tenuity of light, which penetrates and warms and 
illumines. To their eyes Doubt is neither an impiety, 
nor a blasphemy, nor a crime, but a transition through 
which men return upon their steps in the Darkness, or 
advance into the Light. This being so, dear pastor, 
let us reason together. 



134 Seraphita. 

" You do not believe in God ? Why? God, to your 
thinking, is incomprehensible, inexplicable. Agreed. 
I will not reply that to comprehend God in His entirety 
would be to be God ; nor will I tell you that you deny 
what seems to j'ou inexplicable so as to give me the 
risrht to affirm that which to me is believable. There 
is, for you, one evident fact, which lies within j'our- 
self. In you, Matter has ended in intelligence ; can 3'ou 
, therefore think that human intelligence will end in dark- 
ness, doubt, and nothingness? God may seem to you 
incomprehensible and inexplicable, but 3'ou must admit 
Him to be, in all things purelj' phj'sical, a splendid and 
consistent workman. Why should His craft stop short 
at man. His most finished creation? 

" If that question is not convincing, at least it com- 
pels meditation. Happil}', although you deny God, you 
are obliged, in order to establish your doubts, to admit 
those double-bladed facts, which kill j-our arguments 
as much as j'our arguments kill God. We have also 
admitted that Matter and Spirit are two creations 
which do not comprehend each other ; that the spirit- 
ual world is formed of infinite relations to which the 
finite material world has given rise ; that if no one on 
earth is able to identify himself by the power of his 
spirit with the great-whole of terrestrial creations, still 
less is he able to rise to the knowledge of the relations 
which the spirit perceives between these creations. 

" We might end the argument here in one word, 
by denying you the faculty of comprehending God, 
just as you deny to the pebbles of the fiord the faculties 



SerapMta. 135 

of counting and of seeing each other. How do you 
know that the stones themselves do not deny the ex- 
istence of man, though man makes use of them to build 
his houses? There is one fact that appals you, — the 
Infinite ; if you feel it within you, why will you not 
admit its consequences ? Can the finite have a perfect 
knowledge of the infinite? If you cannot perceive 
those relations which, according to your own admis- 
sion, are infinite, how can you grasp a sense of the far- 
off end to which they are converging? Order, the 
revelation of which is one of your needs, being infinite, 
can your limited reason apprehend it? Do not ask 
why man does not comprehend that which he is able 
to perceive, for he is equally able to perceive that which 
he does not comprehend. If I prove to you that your 
mind ignores that which lies within its compass, will 
you grant that it is impossible for it to conceive what- 
ever is beyond it? This being so, am I not justified in 
saying to you : ' One of the two propositions under 
which God is annihilated before the tribunal of our 
reason must be true, the other is false. Inasmuch as 
creation exists, you feel the necessity of an end, and 
that end should be good, should it not? Now, if Mat- 
ter terminates in man by intelligence, why are you not 
satisfied to believe that the end of human intelligence 
is the Light of the higher spheres, where alone an in- 
tuition of that God who seems to you so insoluble a 
problem is obtained? The species which are beneath 
you have no conception of the universe, and you have ; 
why should there not be other species above you more 



136 Seraphita. 

intelligent than your own? Man ought to be better 
informed than he is about himself before he spends his 
strength in measuring God. Before attacking the stars 
that light us, and the higher certainties, ought he not to 
understand the certainties which are actually about 
him?' 

" But no! to the negations of doubt I ought rather 
to reply by negations. Therefore I ask you whether 
there is anything here below so evident that I can put 
faith in it? I will show you in a moment that you be- 
lieve firmly in things which act, and yet are not beings ; 
in things which engender thought, and 3'et are not 
spirits ; in living abstractions which the understanding 
cannot grasp in any shape, which are in fact nowhere, 
but which you perceive everywhere ; which have, and 
can have, no name, but which, nevertheless, you have 
named ; and which, like the God of flesh whom you 
figure to yourself, remain inexplicable, incomprehen- 
sible, and absurd. I shall also ask you wh}-, after 
admitting the existence of these incomprehensible 
things, 3'ou reserve ^-our doubts for God? 

" You believe, for instance, in Number, — a base on 
which you have built the edifice of sciences which you 
call ' exact.' Without Number, what would become 
of mathematics ? Well, what mysterious being endowed 
with the faculty of living forever could utter, and what 
language would he compact to word the Number which 
contains the infinite numbers whose existence is re- 
vealed to you by thought? Ask it of the loftiest 
human genius ; he might ponder it for a thousand 



Seraphita. 137 

years and what would be his answer? You know 
neither where Number begins, nor where it pauses, 
nor where it ends. Here 30U call it Time, there 3-ou 
call it Space. Nothing exists except by Number. 
Without it, all would be one and the same substance ; 
for Number alone differentiates and qualities substance. 
Number is to your Spirit what it is to Matter, an in- 
comprehensible agent. Will you make a Deity of it? 
Is it a being? Is it a breath emanating from God to 
organize the material universe where nothing obtains 
form except by the Divinity which is an effect of Num- 
ber ? The least as well as the greatest of creations are 
distinguishable from each other by quantities, qualities, 
dimensions, forces, — all attributes created b}' Number. 
The infinitude of Numbers is a fact proved to your soul, 
but of which no material proof can be given. The 
mathematician himself tells j'ou that the infinite of 
numbers exists, but cannot be proved. 

' ' God, dear pastor, is a Number endowed with mo- 
tion, — felt, but not seen, the Believer will tell you. 
Like the Unit, He begins Numbers, with which He has 
nothing in common. The existence of Number de- 
pends on the Unit, which without being a number en- 
genders Number. God, dear pastor, is a glorious 
Unit who has nothing in common with His creations 
but who, nevertheless, engenders them. Will you not 
therefore agree with me that you are just as ignorant 
of where Number begins and ends as you are of where 
created Eternity begins and ends? 

" Why, then, if you believe in Number, do you deny 



188 Seraphita. 

God? Is not Creation interposed between the Infinite 
of unorganized substances and the Infinite of the divine 
spheres, just as the Unit stands between the Cipher of 
the fractions 3-ou have lately named Decimals, and the 
Infinite of Numbers which you call Wholes? Man 
alone on earth comprehends Number, that first step of 
the peristyle which leads to God, and 3'et his reason 
stumbles on it ! What ! 3-ou can neither measure nor 
grasp the first abstraction which God delivers to you, 
and yet 3-ou tr3^ to subject His ends to 3'our own tape- 
line ! Suppose that I plunge you into the abyss of 
Motion, the force that organizes Number. If I tell 
3-0U that the Universe is naught else than Number 
and Motion, you would see at once that we speak two 
different languages. I understand them both ; you 
understand neither. 

" Suppose I add that Motion and Number are en- 
gendered b3^ the Word, nameU' the supreme Reason of 
Seers and Prophets who in the olden time heard the 
Breath of God beneath which Saul fell to the earth. 
That Word, 3'ou scoff at it, 3-ou men, although 3'ou 
weD know that all visible works, societies, monuments, 
deeds, passions, proceed from the breath of 3'our own 
feeble word, and that without that word 3-ou would 
resemble the African gorilla, the nearest approach to 
man, the negro. You believe firmly in Number and in 
Motion, a force and a result both inexplicable, incom- 
prehensible, to the existence of which I ma3^ appb' the 
logical dilemma which, as we have seen, prevents vou 
from believing in God. Powerful reasoner that you 



Seraphita. 139 

are, you do not need that I should prove to you that 
the Infinite must everywhere be like unto Itself, and 
that, necessarily, it is One. God alone is Infinite, lor 
surely there cannot be two Infinites, two Ones. If, 
to make use of human terms, anything demonstrated 
to you here below seems to you infinite, be sure that 
within it you will find some one aspect of God. But to 
continue. 

" You have appropriated to j'ourself a place in the 
Infinite of Number ; you have fitted it to your own 
proportions by creating (if indeed you did create) 
arithmetic, the basis on which all things rest, even 
youT societies. Just as Number — the only thing in 
which your self-styled atheists believe — organized 
physical creations, so arithmetic, in the employ of 
Number, organized the moral world. This numeration 
must be absolute, like all else that is true in itself; but 
it is purely relative, it does not exist absolutel}', and no 
proof can be given of its realit}'. In the first place, 
though Numeration is able to take account of organized 
substances, it is powerless in relation to unorganized 
forces, the ones being finite and the others infinite. The 
man who can conceive the Infinite by his intelligence 
cannot deal with it in its entirety ; if he could, he would 
be God. Your Numeration, applying to things finite 
and not to the Infinite, is therefore true in relation to 
the details which 3'ou are able to perceive, and false in 
relation to the Whole, which you are unable to perceive. 
Though Nature is like unto herself in the organizing 
forces or in her principles which are infinite, she is not 



140 Seraphita. 

so in her finite effects. Thus 3^011 will never find in 
Nature two objects identically alike. In the Natural 
Order two and two never make four ; to do so, four 
exactly similar units must be had, and j^ou know how 
impossible it is to find two leaves alike on the same tree, 
or two trees alike of the same species. This axiom of 
3'our numeration, false in visible nature, is equally false 
in the invisible universe of your abstractions, where the 
same variance takes place in your ideas, which are the 
things of the visible world extended bj- means of their 
relations ; so that the variations here are even more 
marked than elsewhere. In fact, all being relative to 
the temperament, strength, habits, and customs of in- 
dividuals, who never resemble each other, the smallest 
objects take the color of personal feelings. For in- 
stance, man has been able to create units and to give 
an equal weight and value to bits of gold. Well, take 
the ducat of the rich man and the ducat of the poor man 
to a money-changer and they are rated exactly equal, 
but to the mind of the thinker one is of greater impor- 
tance than the other ; one represents a month of com- 
fort, the other an ephemeral caprice. Two and two, 
therefore, only make four through a false conception. 

"Again: fraction does not exist in Nature, where 
what you call a fragment is a finished whole. Does it 
not often happen (have yon not many proofs of it?) 
that the hundredth part of a substance is stronger than 
what you term the whole of it? If fraction does not 
exist in the Natural Order, still less shall we find it in 
the Moral Order, where ideas and sentiments may be 



Seraphita. 141 

as varied as the species of the Vegetable kingdom and 
yet be alwa3's whole. The theorj' of fractions is there- 
fore another signal instance of the se^^^lity of your 
mind. 

"Thus Number, with its infinite minuteness and its 
infinite expansion, is a power whose weakest side is 
known to you, but whose real import escapes your per- 
ception. You have built yourself a hut in the Infinite of 
numbers, you have adorned it with hieroghphics sci- 
entifically arranged and painted, and you cxy out, ' All 
is here ! ' 

" Let us pass from pure, unmingled Number to cor- 
porate Number. Your geometry' establishes that a 
straight line is the shortest way from one point to an- 
other, but your astronomy proves that God has pro- 
ceeded by curves. Here, then, we find two truths 
equall}' proved b}- the same science, — one by the testi- 
mony- of 3'our senses reinforced by the telescope, the 
other by the testimony of your mind ; and yet the one 
contradicts the other. Man, liable to err, aflSrms one, 
and the Maker of the worlds, whom, so far, you have 
not detected in eiTor, contradicts it. Who shall decide 
between rectilinear and curvihnear geometry ? between 
the theory of the straight line and that of the curve ? 
If, in His vast work, the mysterious Artificer, who knows 
how to reach His ends miraculously fast, never employs 
a straight line except to cut off an angle and so obtain 
a curve, neither does man himself always rely upon it 
The bullet which he aims direct proceeds by a curve, 
and when you wish to strike a certain point in space, 



142 SerapMta. 

3'ou impel your bombshell along its cruel parabola. 
None of 30ur men of science have drawn from this fact 
the simple deduction that the Curve is the law of the 
material worlds and the Straight line that of the Spiritual 
worlds ; one is the theory of finite creations, the other 
the theory of the infinite. Man, who alone in this 
world has a knowledge of the Infinite, can alone know 
the straight line ; he alone has the sense of verticalit}' 
placed in a special organ. A fondness for the creations 
of the curve would seem to be in certain men an indica- 
tion of the impurity of their nature still conjoined to 
tlie material substances which engender us ; and the 
love of great souls for the straight line seems to show 
in them an intuition of heaven. Between these two 
lines there is a gulf fixed like that between the finite 
and the infinite, between matter and spirit, between 
man and the idea, between motion and the object 
moved, between the creature and God. Ask Love the 
Divine to grant you his wings and yoxx can cross that 
gulf. Beyond it begins the revelation of the Word. 

" No part of those things which you call material is 
without its own meaning ; lines are the boundaries of 
solid parts and imply a force of action which you sup- 
press in 3^our formulas, — thus rendering those formulas 
false in relation to substances taken as a whole. Hence 
the constant destruction of the monuments of human 
labor, which j'ou supply, unknown to 3'^ourselves, with 
acting properties. Nature has substances ; your sci- 
ence combines only their appearances. At every step 
Nature gives the lie to all your laws. Can you find 



SerapTiita. 143 

a single one that is not disproved by a fact? Your 
Static laws are at the mere}' of a thousand accidents • 
a fluid can overthrow a solid mountain and prove that 
the heaviest substances may be lifted hy one that is 
imponderable. 

" Your laws on Acoustics and Optics are defied b}- 
the sounds which yoxx hear within yourselves in sleep, 
and by the light of an electric sun whose ra3's often 
overcome you. You know no more how light makes 
itself seen within you, than you know the simple and 
natural process which changes it on the throats of 
tropic birds to rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and opals, 
or keeps it gra}* and brown on the breasts of the same 
birds under the cloudj- skies of Europe, or whitens it 
here in the bosom of our polar Nature. You know 
not how to decide whether color is a facult}' with which 
all substances are endowed, or an efl^ect produced by an 
effluence of light. You admit the saltness of the sea 
without being able to prove that the water is salt at 
its greatest depth. You recognize the existence of 
various substances which span what you think to be 
the void, — substances which are not tangible under any 
of the forms assumed by Matter, although the}- put 
themselves in harmonj- with Matter in spite of every 
obstacle. 

" All this being so, j'ou believe in the results of 
Chemistry, although that science still knows no wa}' 
of gauging the changes produced by the flux and reflux 
of substances which come and go across your crystals 
and your instruments on the impalpable filaments of 



144 iSeraphita. 

heat or light conducted and projected by the affinities 
of metal or vitrified flint. You obtain none but dead 
substances, from which you have driven the unknown 
force that holds in check the decomposition of all 
things here below, and of which cohesion, attraction, 
vibration, and polarity are but phenomena. Life is 
the thought of substances ; bodies are only the means 
of fixing life and holding it to its way. If bodies were 
beings living of themselves they would be Cause itself, 
and could not die. 

" When a man discovers the results of the general 
movement, which is shared by all creations according to 
their faculty of absorption, you proclaim him might}' in 
science, as though genius consisted in explaining a thing 
that is ! Genius ought to cast its eyes beyond eflects. 
Your men of science would laugh if j'ou said to them : 
'There exist such positive relations between two hu- 
man beings, one of whom may be here, and the other 
in Java, that they can at the same instant feel the same 
sensation, and be conscious of so doing ; they can ques- 
tion each other and reply without mistake ; ' and j'et 
there are mineral substances which exhibit sympathies 
as far off from each other as those of which I speak. 
You believe in the power of the electricity which j'ou 
find in the magnet and you deny that which emanates 
from the soul! According to you, the moon, whose 
influence upon the tides you think fixed, has none 
whatever upon the winds, nor upon navigation, nor 
upon men ; she moves the sea, but she must not aflfect 
the sick folk ; she has undeniable relations with one 



Seraphita. 145 

half of humanit}-, and nothing at all to do with the other 
half. These are your vaunted certainties ! 

" Let us go a step further. You believe in phj-sics. 
But your physics begin, like the Catholic religion, with 
an act of faith. Do the}- not pre-suppose some exter- 
nal force distinct from substance to which it communi- 
cates motion? You see its effects, but what is it? 
where is it? what is the essence of its nature, its life? 
has it any limits ? — and j-et, yon denj' God ! 

" Thus, the majority of your scientific axioms, true 
in their relation to man, are false in relation to the 
Great Whole. Science is One, but j'ou have divided 
it. To know the real meaning of the laws of phe- 
nomena must we not know the correlations which exist 
between phenomena and the law of the Whole ? There 
is, in all things, an appearance which strikes your 
senses ; under that appearance stirs a soul ; a bod}' is 
there and a faculty is there. Where do you teach the 
study of the relations which bind things to each 
other? Nowhere. Consequently 3'ou have nothing 
positive. Your strongest certainties rest upon the 
analj'sis of material forms whose essence you persist- 
entl}' ignore. 

" There is a Higher Knowledge of which, too late, 
some men obtain a glimpse, though they dare not avow 
it. Such men comprehend the necessity of considering 
substances not merely in their mathematical properties 
but also in their entiret}^, in their occult relations and 
affinities. The greatest man among you divined, in his 
latter days, that all was reciprocally cause and effect ; 

10 



146 SerapTiita. 

that the visible worlds were co-ordinated among them- 
selves and subject to worlds invisible. He groaned at 
the recollection of having tried to establish fixed pre- 
cepts. Counting up his worlds, like grape-seeds scat- 
tered through ether, he had explained their coherence b}' 
the laws of planetar}- and molecular attraction. You 
bowed before that man of science — well ! I tell you that 
he died in despair. By supposing that the centrifugal 
and centripetal forces, which he had invented to explain 
to himself the universe, were equal, he stopped the 
universe ; 3'et he admitted motion in an indeterminate 
sense ; but supposing those forces unequal, then utter 
confusion of the planetary system ensued. His laws 
therefore were not absolute ; some higher problem ex- 
isted than the principle on which his false glory rested. 
The connection of the stars with one another and the 
centripetal action of their internal motion did not deter 
him from seeking the parent stalk on which his clusters 
hung. Alas, poor man ! the more he widened space the 
heavier his burden grew. He told you how there came 
to be equilibrium among the parts, but whither went the 
whole? His mind contemplated the vast extent, illimi- 
table to human eyes, filled with those groups of worlds 
a mere fraction of which is all our telescopes can reach, 
but whose immensity is revealed by the rapidit}' of 
light. This sublime contemplation enabled him to per- 
ceive myriads of worlds, planted in space like flowers 
in a field, which are born like infants, grow like men, 
die as the aged die, and live by assimilating from their 
atmosphere the substances suitable for their nourish- 



Serapliita. 147 

inent, — having a centre and a principal of life, guar- 
anteeing to each other their circuits, absorbed and 
absorbing like plants, and forming a vast Whole en- 
dowed with life and possessing a destiny. 

" At that sight jonv man of science trembled! He 
knew that life is produced by the union of the thing 
and its principle, that death or inertia or gravity is 
produced by a rupture between a thing and the move- 
ment which appertains to it. Then it was that he 
foresaw the crumbling of the worlds and their destnic- 
tion if God should withdraw the Breath of his Word. 
He searched the Apocalypse for the traces of that Word. 
You thought him mad. Understand him better ! He 
was seeking pardon for the work of his genius. 

"Wilfrid, you have come here hoping to make me 
solve equations, or rise upon a rain-cloud, or plunge into 
the fiord and reappear a swan. If science or miracles 
were the end and object of humanity, Moses would have 
bequeathed to joxx the law of fluxions ; Jesus Christ 
would have lightened the darkness of A'our sciences ; his 
apostles would have told you whence come those vast 
trains of gas and melted metals, attached to cores which 
revolve and solidify as thej- dart through ether, or vio- 
lently enter some system and combine with a star, 
jostling and displacing it by the shock, or destroying 
it by the infiltration of their deadly gases ; Sauit Paul, 
instead of telling you to live in God, would have ex- 
plained why food is the secret bond among all creations 
and the evident tie between all living Species. In these 
days the greatest miracle of all would be the discovery 



148 Seraphita. 

of the squaring of the circle, — a problem which 30U 
hold to be insoluble, but which is doubtless solved in 
the march of worlds by the intersection of some mathe- 
matical lines whose course is visible to the eye of spirits 
who have reached the higher spheres. Believe me, 
miracles are in us, not without us. Here natural facts 
occur which men call supernatural. God would have 
been strangely unjust had he confined the testimony of 
his power to certain generations and peoples and denied 
them to others. The brazen rod belongs to all. Neither 
Moses, nor Jacob, nor Zoroaster, nor Paul, nor P3'thag- 
oras, nor Swedenborg, not the humblest Messenger 
nor the loftiest Prophet of the Most High are greater 
than you are capable of being. Onl}', there come to 
nations as to men certain periods when Faith is theirs. 

" If material science be the end and object of human 
effort, tell me, both of 3'ou, would societies, — those 
great centres where men congregate, — would they per- 
petually be dispersed ? If civilization were the object 
of our Species, would intelligence perish? would it con- 
tinue purely individual? The grandeur of all nations 
that were truly great was based on exceptions ; when 
the exception ceased their power died. If such were 
the End-all, Prophets, Seers, and Messengers of God 
would have lent their hand to Science rather than have 
given it to Belief. Surely they would have quickened 
your brains sooner than have touched your hearts ! 
But no ; one and all they came to lead the nations back 
to God ; they proclaimed the sacred Path in simple 
words that showed the way to heaven ; all were wrapped 



Seraphita. I49 

in love and faith, all were inspired by that Word which 
hovers above the inhabitants of earth, enfolding them, 
inspiriting them, uplifting them ; none were prompted 
by any human interest. Your great geniuses, your 
poets, your kings, your learned men are engulfed with 
their cities ; while the names of these good pastors of 
humanity, ever blessed, have survived all cataclysms. 

"Alas! we cannot understand each other on any 
point. We are separated by an abyss. You are on 
the side of darkness, while I — I live in the light, the 
true Light ! Is this the word that you ask of me ? I 
say it with joy ; it may change you. Know this : there 
are sciences of matter and sciences of spirit. There, 
where 3'ou see substances, I see forces that stretch one 
toward another with generating power. To me, the 
character of bodies is the indication of their principles 
and the sign of their properties. Those principles be- 
get affinities which escape j-our knowledge, and which 
are linked to centres. The different species among 
which life is distributed are unfailing streams which 
correspond unfailingly among themselves. Each has 
his own vocation. Man is effect and cause. He is fed, 
but he feeds in his turn. When you call God a Creator, 
you dwarf Him. He did not create, as you think He 
did, plants or animals or stars. Could He proceed by 
a variety of means ? Must He not act by unity of com- 
position? Moreover, He gave forth principles to be 
developed, according to His universal law, at the will 
of the surroundings in which they were placed. Hence 
a single substance and motion, a single plant, a single 



150 Seraphita. 

animal, but correlations everywhere. In fact, all affini- 
ties are linked together by contiguous simihtudes ; the 
life of the worlds is drawn toward the centres by fam- 
ished aspiration, as you are drawn by hunger to seek 
food. 

" To give you an example of affinities linked to sim- 
ilitudes (a secondar}' law on which the creations of your 
thought are based), music, that celestial art, is the. 
working out of this principle ; for is it not a comple- 
ment of sounds harmonized by number ? Is not sound \ 
a modification of air, compressed, dilated, echoed? 
You know the composition of air, — oxj'gen, nitrogen, 
and carbon. As you cannot obtain sound from the 
void, it is plain that music and the human voice are the 
result of organized chemical substances, which put 
themselves in unison with the same substances pre- 
pared within you by your thought, co-ordinated by 
means of light, the great nourisher of your globe. 
Have you ever meditated on the masses of nitre de- 
posited by the snow, have j-ou ever observed a thunder- 
storm and seen the plants breathing in from the air 
about them the metal it contains, without concluding 
that the sun has fused and distributed the subtle essence 
which nourishes all things here below? Swedenborg 
has said, ' The earth is a man.' 

' ' Your Science, which makes you great in your own 
eyes, is paltry indeed beside the light which bathes a 
Seer. Cease, cease to question me ; our languages are 
different. For a moment I have used yours to cast, if 
it be possible, a ray of faith into jour soul ; to give 



Seraphita. 15]^ 

you, as it were, the hem of mj- garment and draw you 
up into the regions of Prayer. Can God abase Himself 
to you ? Is it not for you to rise to Him ? If human 
reason finds the ladder of its own strength too weak 
to bring God down to it, is it not evident that you must 
find some other path to reach Him ? That Path is in 
ourselves. The Seer and the Believer find eyes within 
their souls more piercing far than eyes that prole the 
things of earth, — they see the Dawn. Hear this truth : 
Your science, let it be never so exact, your medita- 
tions, however bold, your noblest lights are Clouds. 
Above, above is the Sanctuary whence the true Lifht 
flows." 

She sat down and remained silent; her calm face 
bore no sign of the agitation which orators betray after 
their least fervid improvisations. 

Wilfrid bent toward Monsieur Becker and said in a 
low voice, "Who taught her that?" 

*' I do not know," he answered. 

" He was gentler on the Falberg," Minna whispered 
to herself. 

Seraphita passed her hand across her eyes and then 
said, smiling : — 

"You are very thoughtful to-night, gentlemen. You 
treat Minna and me as though we were men to whom 
you must talk politics or commerce ; whereas we are 
young girls, and j'ou ought to tell us tales while you 
drink j'our tea. That is what we do. Monsieur Wilfrid, 
in our long Norwegian evenings. Come, dear pastor, 
tell me some Saga that I have not heard, — that of 



152 Seraphita. 

Frithiof, the chronicle that you believe and have so often 
promised me. Tell us the story of the peasant lad who 
owned the ship that talked and had a soul. Come ! I 
dream of the frigate EUida, the fairy with the sails 
young girls should navigate ! " 

" Since we have returned to the regions of Jarvis," 
said Wilfrid, whose eyes were fastened on Seraphita as 
those of a robber, lurking in the darkness, fasten on the 
spot where he knows the jewels lie, " tell me wh}- you 
do not marry ? " 

(f "You are all born widows and widowers," she re- 
plied; "but my marriage was arranged at my birth. 
I am betrothed." 

" To whom? " they cried. 

" Ask not my secret," she said ; "I will promise, if 
our father permits it, to invite you to these mysterious . 
nuptials." 

"Will they be soon?" 

" I think so." 

A long silence followed these words. 

"The spring has come!" said Seraphita, suddenly. 
" The noise of the waters and the breaking of the 
ice begins. Come, let us welome the first spring of 
the new century." 

She rose, followed by Wilfrid, and together they 
went to a window which David had opened. After 
the long silence of winter, the waters stirred beneath 
the ice and resounded through the fiord like music, — 
for there are sounds which space refines, so that they 
reach the ear in waves of light and freshness. 



Seraphita. 153 

"Wilfrid, cease to nourish e^il thoughts whose tri- 
umph would be hard to bear. Your desires are easily 
read iu the fire of your eyes. Be kiud ; take one step 
forward in well-doing. Advance beyond the love of 
man and sacrifice yourself completely to the happiness 
of her you love. Obey me ; I will lead you in a path 
where you shall obtain the distinctions which 30U crave, 
and where Love is infinite indeed." 

She left him thoughtful. 

"That soft creature!" he said within himself; "is 
she indeed the prophetess whose eyes have just flashed 
lightnings, whose voice has rung through worlds, whose 
hand has wielded the axe of doubt against our sciences ? 
Have we been dreaming? Am I awake? " 

" Minna," said Seraphitus, returning to the young 
girl, " the eagle swoops where the carrion lies, but the 
dove seeks the mountain spring beneath the peaceful 
greenery of the glades. The eagle soars to heaven, 
the dove descends from it. Cease to venture into 
regions where thou canst find no spring of waters, no 
umbrageous shade. If on the Falberg thou couldst not 
gaze into the abyss and live, keep all thy strength for 
him who will love thee. Go, poor girl ; thou k no west, 
I am betrothed." 

Minna rose and followed Seraphitus to the window 
where Wilfrid stood. All three listened to the Sieg 
bounding under the rush of the upper waters, which 
brought down ti-ees uprooted bj' the ice ; the fiord had 
regained its voice ; all illusions were dispelled ! They 
rejoiced in Nature as she burst her bonds and seemed 



154 SerapJiita. 

to answer with sublime accord to the Spirit whose 
breath had wakened her. 

When the three guests of this mysterious being left 
the house, the}' were filled with the vague sensation 
which is neither sleep, nor torpor, nor astonishment, 
but partakes of the nature of each, — a state that is 
neither dusk nor dawn, but which creates a thirst for 
light. All three were thinking. 

" I begin to believe that she is indeed a Spirit hidden 
in human form," said Monsieur Becker. 

Wilfrid, re-entering his own apartments, calm and 
convinced, was unable to struggle against that influence 
so divinely majestic. 

Minna said in her heart, "Why will he not let me 
love him ! " 



Seraphita. 155 



V. 

FAREWELL. 

There is in man an almost hopeless phenomenon 
for thoughtful minds who seek a meaning in the march 
of civilization, and who endeavor to give laws of pro- 
gression to the movement of intelligence. However por- 
tentous a fact may be, or even supernatural, — if such 
facts exist, — however solemul}' a miracle may be done 
in sight of all, the lightning of that fact, the thunder- 
bolt of that miracle is quickly swallowed up in the 
ocean of life, whose surface, scarcely stirred b}' the 
brief convulsion, returns to the level of its habitual 
flow, 

A Voice is heard from the jaws of an Animal ; a 
Hand writes on the wall before a feasting Court ; an 
Eye gleams in the slumber of a king, and a Prophet 
explains the dream ; Death, evoked, rises on the con- 
fines of the luminous sphere where faculties revive ; 
Spirit annihilates Matter at the foot of that mystic 
ladder of the Seven Spiritual Worlds, one resting upon 
another in space and revealing themselves in shining 
waves that break in light upon the steps of the celes- 
tial Tabernacle. But however solemn the inward 
Revelation, however clear the visible outward Sign, 
be sure that on the morrow Balaam doubts both him- 



156 Seraphita. 

self and his ass, Belshazzar and Pharoah call Moses 
and Daniel to qualify the Word. The Spirit, de- 
scending, bears man above this earth, opens the seas 
and lets him see their depths, shows him lost species, 
wakens dry bones whose dust is the soil of valleys ; 
the Apostle writes the Apocalypse, and twenty cen- 
turies later human science ratifies his words and turns 
his visions into maxims. And what comes of it all? 
Why this, — that the peoples live as they have ever 
lived, as they lived in the first Olympiad, as they lived 
on the morrow of Creation, and on the eve of the great 
catacl^'sm. The waves of Doubt have covered all 
things. The same floods surge with the same meas- 
ured motion on the human granite which serves as 
a boundary to the ocean of intelligence. When man 
has inquired of himself whether he has seen that which 
he has seen, whether he has heard the words that 
entered his ears, whether the facts were facts and the 
idea is indeed an idea, then he resumes his wonted 
bearing, thinks of his worldly interests, obeys some 
envoy of death and of oblivion whose dusky mantle 
covers like a pall an ancient Humanity of which the 
moderns retain no memorj^ Man never pauses ; he 
goes his round, he vegetates until the appointed day 
when his Axe falls. If this wave force, this pressure 
of bitter waters prevents all progress, no doubt it also 
warns of death. Spirits prepared by faith among the 
higher souls of earth can alone perceive the mystic 
ladder of Jacob. 

After listening to Seraphita's answer in which (being 



Seraphita. 157 

earnestly questioned) she uurolled before their eyes a 
Divine Perspective, — as an organ fills a church with 
sonorous sound and reveals a musical universe, its 
solemn tones rising to the loftiest arches and playing, 
like light, upon their foliated capitals, — Wilfrid re- 
turned to his own room, awed by the sight of a world in 
ruins, and on those ruins the brilliance of mjsterious 
lights poured forth in torrents b}- the hand of a ^oung 
girl. On the morrow he still thought of these things, 
but his awe was gone ; he felt he was neither destroyed 
nor changed ; his passions, his ideas awoke in full 
force, fresh and vigorous. He went to breakfast with 
Monsieur Becker and found the old man absorbed in 
the "Treatise on Incantations," which he had searched 
since early morning to convince his guest that there 
was nothing unprecedented in all that they had seen 
and heard at the Swedish castle. With the childlike 
trustfulness of a true scholar he had folded down the 
pages in which Jean Wier related authentic facts which 
proved the possibility of the events that had happened 
the night before, — for to learned men an idea is an 
event, just as the greatest events^^often present no idea 
at all to them. By the time they had swallowed their 
fifth cup of tea, these philosophers had come to think 
the mysterious scene of the preceding evening wholly 
natural. The celestial truths to which they had listened 
were arguments susceptible of examination ; Seraphita 
was a girl, more or less eloquent ; allowance must be 
made for the charms of her voice, her seductive beaut}', 
her fascinating motions, in short, for all those oratorical 



158 Seraphita. 

arts by which an actor puts a world of sentiment and 
thought into phrases which are often commonplace. 

" Bah ! " said the worthy pastor, making a philosophi- 
cal gi-imace as he spread a layer of salt butter on his 
slice of bread, " the final word of all these fine enigmas 
is six feet under ground." 

"But," said Wilfrid, sugaring his tea, "I cannot 
imagine how a 5'oung girl of seventeen can know 
so much ; what she said was certainly a compact 
argument." 

" Read the account of that Italian woman," said 
Monsieur Becker, " who at the age of twelve spoke 
forty-two languages, ancient and modern ; also the 
history of that monk who could guess thought by 
smell. I can give you a thousand such cases from 
Jean Wier and other writers." 

" I admit all that, dear pastor ; but to my thinking, 
Seraphita would make a perfect wife." 

" She is all mind," said Monsieur Becker, dubiously. 

Several daj's went b}', during which the snow in the 
valleys melted graduall}- away ; the green of the forests 
and of the grass began to show ; Norwegian Nature 
made ready her wedding garments for her brief bridal 
of a day. During this period, when the softened air 
invited every one to leave the house, Seraphita remained 
at home in solitude. When at last she admitted Minna, 
the latter saw at once the ravages of inward fever ; 
Seraphita's voice was hollow, her skin pallid ; hitherto 
a poet might have compared her lustre to that of 
diamonds, — now it was that of a topaz. 



Seraphita. 159 

" Have you s<^en her? " asked Wilfrid, who had wan- 
dered around the Swedish dwelling waiting for Minna's 
return. 

"Yes," answered the j'oung girl, weeping; "We 
must lose him ! " 

"Mademoiselle," cried Wilfrid, endeavoring to re- 
press the loud tones of his angry voice, "do not jest 
with me. You can love Seraphita onlj- as one j'ounor 
girl can love another, and not with the love which she 
inspires in me. You do not know j'our danger if my 
jealousy were really aroused. Why can 1 not go to 
her? Is it you who stand in my way?" 

" I do not know by what right you probe my heart," 
said Minna, calm in appearance, but inwardly terrified. 
"Yes, I love him," she said recovering the courage of 
her convictions, that she might, for once, confess the 
religion of her heart. " But my jealousy, natural as it 
is in love, fears no one here below. Alas ! I am jealous 
of a secret feeling which absorbs him. Between him 
and me there is a great gulf fixed which I cannot cross. 
Would that I knew who loves him best, the stars or I ! 
which of us would sacrifice our being most eagerh' for 
his happiness ! Wh}^ should I not be free to avow 
my love? In the presence of death we maj' declare 
our feelings, — and Seraphitus is about to die." 

" Minna, you are mistaken ; the siren I so love and 
long for, she, whom I have seen, feeble and languid, on 
her couch of furs, is not a joung man." 

" Monsieur," answered Minna, distrcssfull}', " the 
being whose powerful hand guided me on the Falberg, 



160 Seraphita. 

who led me to the saeter sheltered beneath the Ice-Cap, 
there — "she said, pointing to the peak, "is not a 
feeble girl. Ah, had you but heard him prophesying ! 
His poem was the music of thought. A young girl 
never uttered those solemn tones of a voice which 
stirred my soul." 

" What certainty have you? " said Wilfrid. 
" None but that of the heart," answered Minna. 
" And I," cried Wilfrid, casting on his companion 
the terrible glance of the earthl}^ desire that kills, "I, 
too, know how powerful is her empire over me, and I 
will undeceive you." 

At this moment, while the words were rushing from 
Wilfrid's lips as rapidly as the thoughts surged in his 
brain, they saw Seraphita coming towards them from 
the house, followed by David. The apparition calmed 
the man's excitement. 

"Look," he said, "could an}' but a woman move 
with that grace and languor ? " 

" He suffers ; he comes forth for the last time," said 
Minna. 

David went back at a sign from his mistress, who 
advanced towards Wilfrid and Minna. 

" Let us go to the falls of the Sieg," she said, ex- 
pressing one of those desires which suddenly possess 
the sick and which the well hasten to obey. 

A thin white mist covered the valleys around the 
fiord and the sides of the mountains, whose icy sum- 
mits, sparkling like stars, pierced the vapor and gave 
it the appearance of a moving milky way. The sun 



Seraphita. 161 

was visible through the haze like a globe of red fire. 
Though winter still lingered, puffs of warm air laden 
with the scent of the bireh-trees, already adorned with 
their rosy efflorescence, and of the larches, whose silken 
tassels were beginning to appear, — breezes tempered 
by the incense and the sighs of earth, — gave token of 
tlie glorious Northern spring, the rapid, fleeting joy of 
that most melancholy of Natures. The wind was be- 
ginning to lift the veil of mist which half-obscured the 
gulf. The birds sang. The bark of the trees where the 
sun had not yet dried the clinging hoar-frost shone 
gayly to the eye in its fantastic wreathings which 
trickled away in murmuring rivulets as the warmth 
reached them. The three friends walked in silence 
along the shore. Wilfrid and Minna alone noticed 
the magic transformation that was taking place in the 
monotonous picture of the winter landscape. Their 
companion walked in thought, as though a voice were 
sounding to her ears in this concert of Nature. 

Presently they reached the ledge of rocks through 
which the Sieg had forced its way, after escaping from 
the long avenue cut by its waters in an undulating line 
through the forest, — a fluvial pathway flanked by aged 
firs and roofed with strong-ribbed arches like those of 
a cathedral. Looking back from that vantage-ground, 
the whole extent of the fiord could be seen at a glance, 
with the open sea sparkling on the horizon beyond it 
like a burnished blade. 

At this moment the mist, rolling awa}', left the sky 
blue and clear. Among the valleys and around the 

11 



162 Seraphita. 

trees flitted the shining fragments, — a diamond dust 
swept b}' the freshening breeze. The torrent rolled 
on toward them ; along its length a vapor rose, tinted 
by the sun with every color of his light ; the decompos- 
ing rays flashing prismatic fires along the many-tinted 
scarf of waters. The rugged ledge on which they stood 
was carpeted by several kinds of lichen, forming a noble 
mat variegated by moisture and lustrous like the sheen 
of a silken fabric. Shrubs, already in bloom, crowned 
the rocks with garlands. Their waving foliage, eager 
for the freshness of the water, drooped its tresses above 
the stream ; the larches shook their light fringes and 
played with the pines, stiff" and motionless as aged men. 
This luxuriant beauty was foiled by the solemn colon- 
nades of the forest- trees, rising in terraces upon the 
mountains, and by the calm sheet of the fiord, lying 
below, where the torrent buried its fury and was still. 
Beyond, the sea hemmed in this page of Nature, written 
by the greatest of poets, Chance ; to whom the wild 
luxuriance of creation when apparently abandoned to 
itself is owing. 

The village of Jarvis was a lost point in the landscape, 
in this immensity of Nature, sublime at this moment like 
all things else of ephemeral life which present a fleeting 
image of perfection ; for, by a law fatal to no eyes but 
our own, creations which appear complete — the love 
of our heart and the desire of our eyes — have but one 
spring-tide here below. Standing on this breast-work 
of rock these three persons might well suppose them- 
selves alone in the universe. 



Seraphita. 163 

*' What beauty ! " cried Wilfrid. 

" Nature sings hymns," said Seraphita. " Is not her 
music exquisite? Tell me, Wilfrid, could any of the 
women you once knew create such a glorious retreat 
for herself as this? I am conscious here of a feel- 
ing seldom inspired by the sight of cities, a longing 
to lie down amid this quickening verdure. Here, 
with eyes to heaven and an open heart, lost in the 
bosom of immensity, I could hear the sighing of 
the flower, scarce budded, which longs for wings, or 
the cry of the eider grieving that it can only fly, and 
remember the desires of man who, issuing from all, is 
none the less ever longing. But that, Wilfrid, is only 
a woman's thought. You find seductive fancies in the 
wreathing mists, the light embroidered veils which Na- 
ture dons like a coy maiden, in this atmosphere where 
she perfumes for her spousals the greenery of her tresses. 
You seek the naiad's form amid the gauzy vapors, and 
to 3'our thinking my ears should listen only to the virile 
voice of the Torrent." 

" But Love is there, like the bee in the calyx of the 
flower," replied Wilfrid, perceiving for the first time 
a trace of earthly sentiment in her words, and fancying 
the moment favorable for an expression of his passionate 
tenderness. 

"Always there?" said Seraphita, smiling. Minna 
had left them for a moment to gather the blue saxifrages 
growing on'a rock above. 

" Always," repeated Wilfrid. " Hear me," he said, 
with a masterful glance which was foiled as b}- a dia' 



164 Seraphita. 

mond breast-plate. "You know not what I am, nor 
what I can be, nor what I will. Do not reject my last 
entreaty. Be mine for the good of that world whose 
happiness you bear upon your heart. Be mine that my 
conscience may be pure ; that a voice divine may sound 
in my ears and infuse Good into the great enterprise I 
have undertaken prompted b}^ my hatred to the nations, 
but which I swear to accomplish for their benefit if you 
will walk beside me. What higher mission can you ask 
for love? what nobler part can woman aspire to? I 
came to Norway to meditate a great design." 

" And you will sacrifice its grandeur," she said, " to 
an innocent girl who loves you, and who will lead you 
in the paths of peace." 

" What matters sacrifice," he cried, " if I have you? 
Hear my secret. I have gone from end to end of the 
North, — that great smithy from whose anvils new races 
have spread over the earth, like human tides appointed 
to refresh the wornout civilizations. I wished to begin 
ray work at some Northern point, to win the empire 
which force and intellect must ever give over a primi- 
tive people ; to form that people for battle, to drive 
them to wars which should ravage Europe like a con- 
flagration, crying liberty to some, pillage to others, 
glory here, pleasure there ! — I, myself, remaining an 
image of Destiny, cruel, implacable, advancing like 
the whirlwind, which sucks from the atmosphere the 
particles that make the thunderbolt, and falls like a 
devouring scourge upon the nations. Europe is at an 
epoch when she awaits the new Messiah who shall de- 



Seraphita. 165 

stro}- society and remake it. She can no lono-er believe 
except in him who crushes her under foot. The dav is 
at hand when poets and historians will justify me, exalt 
me, and borrow my ideas, mine ! And all the while 
my triumph will be a jest, written in blood, the jest of 
my vengeance ! But not here, Seraphita ; what I see 
of the North disgusts me. Hers is a mere blind force ; 
I thirst for the Indies ! I would rather fight a selfish, 
cowardly, mercantile government. Besides, it is easier 
to stir the imagination of the peoples at the feet of the 
Caucasus than to argue with the intellect of the icy- 
lands which here surround me. Therefore am I tempted 
to cross the Russian steppes and pour m}- triumphant 
human tide through Asia to the Ganges, and overthrow 
the British rule. Seven men have done this thing be- 
fore me in other epochs of the world. I will emulate 
them. I will spread Art like the Saracens, hurled by 
Mohammed upon Europe. Mine shall be no paltr}- 
sovereignty like those that govern to-da}' the ancient 
provinces of the Roman empire, disputing with their 
subjects about a customs right ! No, nothing can bar 
my waj' ! Like Genghis Khan, my feet shall tread a 
third of the globe, mj' hand shall grasp the throat of 
Asia like Aurung-Zeb. Be my companion ! Let me 
seat thee, beautiful and noble being, on a throne I I 
do not doubt success, but live within my heart and I 
am sure of it." 

" I have already reigned," said Seraphita, coldly- . 

The words fell as the axe of a skilful woodman falls 
at the root of a j'oung tree and brings it down at a 



166 SerapUta. 

single blow. Men alone can comprehend the rage that 
a woman excites in the soul of a man when, after show- 
ing her his strength, his power, his wisdom, his su- 
periority, the capricious creature bends her head and 
sa^-s, "All that is nothing;" when, unmoved, she 
smiles and says, " Such things are known to me," as 
though his power were nought. 

" What ! " cried Wilfrid, in despair, " can the riches 
of art, the riches of worlds, the splendors of a court — " 

She stopped him b}' a single inflexion of her lips, and 
said, "Beings more powerful than you have oflfered me^l 
far more." 

" Thou hast no soul," he cried, — " no soul, if thou 
art not persuaded by the thought of comforting a great 
man, who is willing now to sacrifice all things to live 
beside thee in a little house on the shores of a lake," 

" But," she said, " I am loved with a boundless love." 

"By whom? "cried Wilfrid, approaching Seraphita 
with a frenzied movement, as if to fling her into the 
foaming basin of the Sieg. 

She looked at him and slowly extended her arm, point- 
ing to Minna, who now sprang towards her, fair and 
glowing and lovely as the flowers she held in her hand. 

" Child ! " said Seraphitus, advancing to meet her. 

Wilfrid remained where she left him, motionless as 
the rock on which he stood, lost in thought, longing to 
let himself go into the torrent of the Sieg, like the fallen 
trees which hurried past his eyes and disappeared in the 
bosom of the gulf. 

" I gathered them for you," said Minna, offering the 



Seraphita. 167 

bunch of saxifrages to the being she adored. '^ One of 
them, see, this one," she added, selecting a flower, 
" is like that j'ou found on the Falbero-." 

Seraphitus looked alternately at the flower and at 
Minna. 

" Why question me? Dost thou doubt me ? " 

"No," said the young girl, "my trust in you is in- 
finite. You are more beautiful to look upon than this 
glorious nature, but 3'our mind surpasses in intellect 
that of all humanity. When I have been with j'ou I 
seem to have pra3'ed to God. I long — " 

"For what?" said Seraphitus, with a glance that 
revealed to the young girl the vast distance which 
separated them. 

" To sufl'er in j-our stead." 

"Ah, dangerous being!" cried Seraphitus in his 
heart. "Is it wrong, oh my God ! to desire to offer 
her to Thee? Dost thou remember, Minna, what I said 
to thee up there ? " he added, pointing to the summit of 
the Ice-Cap. 

"He is terrible again," thought Minna, trembling 
with fear. 

The voice of the Sieg accompanied the thoughts of 
the three beings united on this platform of projecting 
rock, but separated in soul by the abj'sses of the 
Spiritual World. 

"Seraphitus! teach me," said Minna in a silvery 
voice, soft as the motion of a sensitive plant, "teach 
me how to cease to love you. Who could fail to admire 
you ; love is an admiration that never wearies." 



168 Seraphita. 

" Poor child ! " said Seraphitus, turning pale ; " there 
is but one whom thou canst love in that way." 

" Who?" asked Minna. 

"Thou shalt know hereafter," he said, in the feeble 
voice of a man who lies down to die. 

" Help, help ! he is d3dng ! " cried Minna. 

Wilfrid ran towards them. Seeing Seraphita as she 
lav on a fragment of gneiss, where time had cast its 
velvet mantle of lustrous lichen and tawny mosses now 
burnished in the sunlight, he whispered softly, " How 
beautiful she is ! " 

" One other look ! the last that I shall ever cast upon 
this nature in travail," said Seraphita, rallying her 
strength and rising to her feet. 

She advanced to the edge of the rocky platform, 
whence her e^'es took in the scenery' of that grand and 
glorious landscape, so verdant, flower}', and animated, 
yet so lately buried in its winding-sheet of snow. 

"Farewell," she said, "farewell, home of Earth, 
warmed by the fires of Love ; where all things press 
with ardent force from the centre to the extremities ; 
where the extremities are gathered up, like a woman's 
hair, to weave the mysterious braid which binds us in 
that invisible ether to the Thought Divine ! 

" Behold the man bending above that furrow mois- 
tened with his tears, who lifts his head for an instant 
to question Heaven ; behold the woman gathering her 
children that she ma}' feed them with her milk ; see 
him who lashes the ropes in the height of the gale ; see 
her who sits in the hollow of the rocks, awaiting the 



Seraphita. 169 

father! Behold all they who stretch their hands in 
want after a hfetime spent in thankless toil. To all 
peace and courage, and to all farewell ! 

"Hear you the cry of the soldier, dying nameless 
and unknown ? the wail of the man deceived who weeps 
in the desert ? To them peace and courage ; to all 
farewell ! 

" Farewell, you who die for the kings of the earth ! 
Farewell, ye people without a countr}- and ye countries 
without a people, each with a mutual want. Above 
all, farewell to Thee who knew not where to la}' Thy 
head, Exile divine ! Farewell, mothers beside your 
dying sons ! Farewell, jq Little Ones, ye Feeble, ye 
Suffering, you whose sorrows I have so often borne ! 
Farewell, all ye who have descended into the sphere of 
Instinct that you may suffer there for others ! 

" Farewell, ye mariners who seek the Orient through 
the thick darkness of your abstractions, vast as prin- 
ciples ! Farewell, mart^TS of thought, led b\' thought 
into the presence of the True Light. Farewell, regions 
of study where mine eai's can hear the plaint of genius 
neglected and insulted, the sigh of the patient scholar 
to whom enliglitenment comes too late ! 

" I see the angelic choir, the wafting of perfumes, 
the incense of the heart of those who go their wa}' con- 
soling, praying, imparting celestial balm and living 
light to suffering souls ! Courage, ye choir of Love ! 
you to whom the peoples crj', ' Comfort us, comfort us, 
defend us ! ' To you courage ! and farewell ! 

" Farewell, ye granite rocks that shall bloom a flower ; 



170 Seraphita. 

farewell, flower that becomes a dove ; farewell, dove that 
shalt be woman ; farewell, woman, who art Suflfering, 
man, who art Belief! Farewell, you who shall be all 
love, all prayer ! " 

Broken with fatigue, this inexplicable being leaned 
for the first time on Wilfrid and on Minna to be taken 
home. Wilfrid and Minna felt the shock of a mj-sterious 
contact in and through the being who thus connected 
them. They had scarcely advanced a few steps when 
David met them, weeping. " She will die," he said, 
"why have you brought her hither?" 

The old man raised her in his arms with the vigor of 
youth and bore her to the gate of the Swedish castle 
like an eagle bearing a white lamb to his mountain 
eyrie. 



SerajjJiita. 171 



VI. 

THE PATH TO HEAVEN. 

The da}' succeeding that on which Seraphita foresaw 
her death and bade farewell to Earth, as a prisoner 
looks round his dungeon before leaving it forever, she 
suffered pains which obliged her to remain in the help- 
less immobility of those whose pangs are great. Wilfrid 
and Minna went to see her, and found her lying on her 
couch of furs. Still veiled in flesh, her soul shone 
through that veil, which grew more and more trans- 
parent day by day. The progress of the Spirit, piercing 
the last obstacle between itself and the Infinite, was 
called an illness, the hour of Life went by the name of 
death. David wept as he watched her sufferings ; un- 
reasonable as a child, he would not listen to his mis- 
tress's consolations. Monsieur Becker wished Sera- 
phita to try remedies ; but all were useless. 

One morning she sent for the two beings whom she 
loved, telling them that this would be the last of her 
bad days. Wilfrid and Minna came in terror, knowing 
well that they were about to lose her. Seraphita smiled 
to them as one departing to a better world ; her head 
drooped like a flower heavy with dew, which opens its 
calyx for the last time to waft its fragrance on the 
breeze. She looked at these friends with a sadness 



172 Serapfiita. 

that was for them, not for herself; she thought no 
longer of herself, and they felt this with a grief min- 
gled with gratitude which they were unable to express. 
Wilfrid stood silent and motionless, lost in thoughts 
excited by events whose vast bearings enabled him to 
conceive of some iUimitable immensit}^ 

Emboldened by the weakness of the being lately 
go powerful, or perhaps by the fear of losing him for- 
ever, Minna bent down over the couch and said, 
" Seraphitus, let me follow thee ! " 

"Can I forbid thee?" 

" Whj- will thou not love me enough to stay with 
me?" 

" I can love nothing here." 

" What canst thou love? " 

" Heaven." 

" Is it worthy of heaven to despise the creatures of 
God?" 

" Minna, can we love two beings at once? Would 
our beloved be indeed our beloved if he did not fill our 
hearts? Must he not be the first, the last, the only 
one? She who is all love, must she not leave the 
world for her beloved? Human ties are but a memor}-, 
she has no ties except to him ! Her soul is hers no 
longer; it is his. If she keeps within her soul any- 
thing that is not his, does she love? No, she loves 
not. To love feebl}', is that to love at all? The voice 
of her beloved makes her joyful ; it flows through her 
veins in a crimson tide more glowing far than blood ; 
his glance is the light that penetrates her ; her being 



Seraphita. 17g 

melts into his being. He is warm to her soul. He 
is the light that lightens ; near to him there is neither 
cold nor darkness. He is never absent, he is always 
with us; we think in him, to him, by him! Minna, 
that is how I love him." 

"Love whom?" said Minna, tortured with sudden 
jealous}'. 

" God," replied Seraphitus, his voice glowing in their 
souls like fires of libert}- lighted from peak to peak upon 
the mountains, — " God, who does not betray us ! God, 
who will never abandon us ! who crowns our wishes ; 
who satisfies His creatures with joy — jo}- unalloved 
and infinite ! God, who never wearies but ever smiles ! 
God, who pours into the soul fresh treasures day by- 
day ; who purifies and leaves no bitterness ; who is all 
harmony, all flame! God, who has placed Himself 
within our hearts to blossom there ; who hearkens to 
our prayers ; who does not stand aloof when we are His, 
but gives His presence absolutely ! He who revives 
us, magnifies us, and multiplies us in Himself; God! 
Minna, I love thee because thou mayst be His ! I love 
thee because if thou come to Him thou wilt be mine." 

" Lead me to Him," cried Minna, kneeling down ; 
" take me by the hand ; I will not leave thee I " 

"Lead us, Seraphita!" cried Wilfrid, coming to 
Minna's side with an impetuous movement. " Yes, 
thou hast given me a thirst for Light, a thirst for the 
Word. I am parched with the Love thou hast put into 
my heart ; I desire to keep thy soul in mine ; thy will is 
mine ; I will do whatsoever thou biddest me. Since I 



174 Seraphita. 

cannot obtain thee, I will keep thy will and all the 
thoughts that thou hast given me. If I ma}' not unite m}-- 
self with thee except by the power of my spirit, I will 
cling to thee in soul as the flame to what it laps. Speak ! " 

"Angel!" exclaimed the mysterious being, enfold- 
ing them both in one glance, as it were with an azure 
mantle, "Heaven shall be thine heritage!" 

Silence fell among them after these words, which 
sounded in the souls of the man and of the woman like 
the first notes of some celestial harmony. 

" If you would teach your feet to tread the Path to 
heaven, know that the way is hard at first," said the 
wear}' sufferer ; ' ' God wills that jou shall seek Him for 
Himself. In that sense. He is jealous ; He demands 
3'our whole self But when 3"ou have given Him your- 
self, never, never will He abandon 3'ou. I leave with 
you the kej'S of the kingdom of His Light, where ever- 
more you shall dwell in the bosom of the Father, in the 
heart of the Bridegroom. No sentinels guard the ap- 
proaches ; 3'ou may enter where 3-ou will ; His palaces. 
His treasures, His sceptre, all are free. 'Take them !' 
He says. But — 3'Ou must will to go there. Like 
one preparing for a journe3', a man must leave his 
home, renounce his projects, bid farewell to friends, to 
father, mother, sister, even to the helpless brother who 
cries after him, — 3-es, farewell to them eternally; you 
will no more return than did the mart3TS on their way 
to the stake. You must strip 3'ourself of every senti- 
ment, of everything to which man clings. Unless you 
do this 3'OU are but half-hearted in 3'our enterprise. 



SerapJiita. I75 

" Do for God what you do for 3-our ambitious pro- 
jects, what 3'ou do in consecrating yourself to Art, what 
j-ou have done when you loved a human creature or 
sought some secret of human science. Is not God the 
whole of science, the all of love, the source of poetry? 
Surely His riches are worthy of being coveted ! His 
treasure is inexhaustible, His poem infinite, His love 
immutable, His science sure and darkened by no mys- 
teries. Be anxious for nothing, He will give you all. 
Yes, in His heart are treasures with which the petty 
joys you lose on earth are not to be compared. What 
I tell you is true ; you shall possess His power ; you 
may use it as you would use the gifts of lover or mis- 
tress. Alas ! men doubt, they lack faith, and will, and 
persistence. If some set their feet in the path, they 
look behind them and presently turn back. Few de- 
cide between the two extremes, — to go or stav, heaven 
or the mire. All hesitate. Weakness leads astray, 
passion allures into dangerous paths, vice becomes 
habitual, man flounders in the mud and makes no 
progress towards a better state. 

" All human beings go through a previous life in the 
sphere of Instinct, where they are brought to see the 
worthlessness of earthly treasures, to amass which they 
gave themselves such untold pains ! Who can tell how 
many times the humau being lives in the sphere of 
Instinct before he is prepared to enter the sphere of 
Abstractions, where thought expends itself on erring 
science, where mind wearies at last of human lan- 
guage? for, when Matter is exhausted, Spirit enters. 



176 Seraphita. 

Who knows how many fleshly forms the heir of 
heaven occupies before he can be brought to under- 
stand the value of that silence and solitude whose 
Starr}' plains are but the vestibule of Spiritual Worlds? 
He feels his way amid the void, makes trial of noth- 
ingness, and then at last his eyes revert upon the Path. 
Then follow other existences, — all to be lived to reach 
the place where Light eflfulgent shines. Death is the 
post-bouse of the journey. A lifetime may be needed 
merely to gain the virtues which annul the errors of 
man's preceding life. First comes the life of suffering, 
whose tortures create a thirst for love. Next the life 
of love and devotion to the creature, teaching devo- 
tion to the Creator, — a life where the virtues of love, 
its martj'rdoms, its joys followed by sorrows, its angelic 
hopes, its patience, its resignation, excite an appetite 
for things divine. Then follows the life which seeks 
in silence the traces of the Word ; in which the soul 
grows humble and charitable. Next the life of long- 
ing ; and lastly, the life of prayer. In that is the noon- 
day sun ; there are the flowers, there the harvest ! 

" The virtues we acquire, which develop slowly within 
us, are the invisible links that bind each one of our ex- 
istences to the others, — existences which the spirit 
alone remembers, for Matter has no memory for spirit- U\ 
ual things. Thought alone holds the tradition of the 
bygone life. The endless legacy of the past to the 
present is the secret source of human genius. Some 
receive the gift of form, some the gift of numbers, 
others the gift of harmony. All these gifts are steps of 



Seraphita. 177 

progress in the Path of Light. Yes, he who possesses 
a single one of them touches at that point the InGnite. 
Earth has divided the Word — of which I here reveal 
some syllables — into particles, she has reduced it to 
dust and has scattered it through her works, her do"-- 
raas, her poems. If some impalpable grain shines like 
a diamond in a human work, men cry: 'How grand!' 
how true! how glorious!' That fragment vibrates in \ 
their souls and wakes a presentiment of heaven : to 
some, a melody that weans from earth ; to others, the 
solitude that draws to God. To all, whatsoever sends 
us back upon ourselves, whatsoever strikes us down 
and crushes us, lifts or abases us, — that is but a 
syllable of the Divine Word. 

" When a human soul draws its first furrow straight, 
the rest will follow surely. One thought borne inward, 
one prayer uplifted, one suffering endured, one echo of 
the Word within us, and our souls are forever changed. 
All ends in God ; and many are the wa3-s to find Ilim 
b}' walking straight before us. When the happy day 
arrives in which you set your feet upon the Path and 
begin your pilgrimage, the world will know nothing of 
it ; earth no longer understands you ; j'ou no longer un- 
derstand each other. Men who attain to a knowledge 
of these things, who lisp a few syllables of the Word, 
often have not where to lay their head ; hunted like 
beasts they perish on the scaffold, to the joy of assem- 
bled peoples, while Angels open to them the gates of 
heaven. Therefore, your destiny is a secret between 
yourself and God, just as love is a secret between two 

12 



178 SerapJiita. 

hearts. You may be the buried treasure, trodden under 
the feet of men thirsting for gold yet all-unknowing that 
you are there beneath them. ' ' ' '' ' 

" Henceforth your existence becomes a thing of 
ceaseless activity ; each act has a meaning which con- 
nects you with God, just as in love your actions and 
your thoughts are filled with the loved one. But love 
and its joys, love and its pleasures limited b}' the senses, 
are but the imperfect image of the love which unites 
you to your celestial Spouse. All earthly joy is mixed 
with anguish, with discontent. If love ought not to 
pall then death should end it while its flame is high, so 
that we see no ashes. But in God our wretchedness 
becomes delight, joy lives upon itself and multiplies, 
and gi'ows, and has no limit. In the Earthly life our 
fleeting love is ended by tribulation ; in the Spiritual 
life the tribulations of a da}'^ end in joys unending. The 
soul is ceaselessly J03'ful. We feel God with us, in us ; 
He gives a sacred savour to all things ; He shines in 
the soul ; He imparts to us His sweetness ; He stills 
our interest in the world viewed for ourselves ; He 
quickens our interest in it viewed for His sake, and 
grants us the exercise of His power upon it. In His 
name we do the works which He inspires, we act for 
Him, we have no self except in Him, we love His crea- 
tures with undying love, we dry their tears and long to 
bring them unto Him, as a loving woman longs to see 
the inhabitants of earth obey her well-beloved. 

" The final life, the fruition of all other lives, to 
.<«hich the powers of the soul have tended, and whose 



• Seraphita. 179 

merits open the Sacred Portals to perfected man, is the 
life of Praj-er. Who can make 30U comprehend the 
grandeur, the majest}-, the might of Pra^-er? Maj- mv 
voice, these words of mine, ring in your hearts and 
change them. Be now, here, what you may be after 
cruel trial ! There are privileged beings, Prophets, 
Seers, Messengers, and Martyrs, all those who suffer 
for the Word and who proclaim it ; such souls spring 
at a bound across the human sphere and rise at once to 
Prayer. So, too, with those whose souls receive the 
fire of Faith. Be one of those brave souls ! God 
welcomes boldness. He loves to be taken by vio- 
lence ; He will never reject those who force their way 
to Him. Know this ! desire, the torrent of your will, 
is so aU-powerful that a single emission of it, made 
with force, can obtain all ; a single cry, uttered under 
the pressure of Faith, suffices. Be one of such beings, 
full of force, of will, of love ! Be conquerors on the 
earth ! Let the hunger and thirst of God possess you. j^^j'^ 
Fly to Him as the hart panting for the water-brooks. 
Desire shall lend you its wings ; tears, those blossoms 
of repentance, shall be the celestial baptism from which 
\-our nature will issue purified. Cast j-ourself on the 
breast of the stream in Prayer ! Silence and medita- 
tion are the means of following the Way. God re- 
veals Himself, unfailingly, to the solitary, thoughtful 
seeker. 

" It is thus that the separation takes place between 
Matter, which so long has wrapped its darkness round 
you, and Spirit, which was in you from the beginning, 



180 Seraphita. 

the light which lighted you and now brings noon-day 
to your soul. Yes, your broken heart shall receive the 
light ; the light shall bathe it. Then j'ou will no longer 
feel convictions, they will have changed to certainties. 
The Poet utters ; the Thinker meditates ; the Righteous 
acts ; but he who stands upon the borders of the Di- 
vine World prays ; and his prayer is word, thought, 
action, in one ! Yes, prayer includes all, contains all ; 
it completes nature, for it reveals to j'ou the mind 
within it and its progression. White and shining virgin 
of all human virtues, ark of the covenant between earth 
and heaven, tender and strong companion partaking of 
the lion and of the lamb, Prayer! Prayer will give? 
you the 'key of heaven ! Bold and pure as innocence, 
strong, like all that is single and simple, this glorious, 
invincible Queen rests, nevertheless, on the material 
world ; she takes possession of it ; like the sun, she 
clasps it in a circle of light. The universe belongs to 
him who wills, who knows, who prays ; but he must 
will, he must know, he must praj' ; in a word, he must 
possess force, wisdom, and faith. 

" Therefore Prayer, issuing from so man}' trials, is 
the consummation of all truths, all powers, all feelings. 
Fruit of the laborious, progressive, continued develop- 
ment of natural properties and faculties vitalized anew 
by the divine breath of the Word, Praj-er has oc- 
cult activity ; it is the final worship — not the ma- 
terial worship of images, nor the spiritual worship of 
formulas, but the worship of the Divine World. We 
say no pra3'ers, — praj-er forms within us ; it is a 



Seraphita. 181 

faculty which acts of itself; it has attained a wa}' 
of action which lifts it outside of forms ; it links 
the soul to God, with whom we unite as the root of the 
tree unites with the soil ; our veins draw life from the 
principle of life, and we live b}- the life of the universe. 
Prayer bestows external conviction by making us pene- 
trate the Material "World through the cohesion of all 
our faculties with the elementary substances ; it be- 
stows internal conviction by developing our essence 
and mingling it with that of the Spiritual Worlds. To 
be able to pray thus, you must attain to an utter aban- 
donment of flesh ; 3'ou must acquire through the fires 
of the furnace the purity of the diamond ; for this com- 
plete communion with the Divine is obtained only in 
absolute repose, where storms and conflicts are at rest. 

"Yes, Praj'er — the aspiration of the soul freed ab- 
^olutel}' from the body — bears all forces within it, and 
applies them to the constant and perseverant union of 
the Visible and the Invisible. When you possess the 
faculty of praying without weariness, with love, with 
force, with certainty-, with intelligence, your spiritual- 
ized nature will presently' be invested with power. 
Like a rushing wind, like a thunderbolt, it cuts its 
■way through all things and shares the power of God. 
The quickness of the Spirit becomes 3'ours ; in an 
instant you may pass from region to region ; like the 
Word itself, you are transported from the ends of the 
world to other worlds. Harmony exists, and you are 
part of it ! Light is there and 3'our eyes possess it ! 
Melody is heard and you echo it! Under such con- 



182 Seraphita. 

ditions, you feel your perceptions developing, widening ; 
the eyes of your mind reach to vast distances. There 
is, in truth, neither time nor place to the Spirit -, space 
and duration are proportions created for Matter ; spirit 
and matter have naught in common 

" Though these things take place in stillness, in 
silence, without agitation, without external movement, 
yet Prayer is all action ; but it is spiritual action, 
stripped of substantialit}-, and reduced, like the motion 
of the worlds, to an invisible pure force. It penetrates 
everywhere like light; it gives vitality to souls that 
come beneath its rays, as Nature beneath the sun. It 
resuscitates virtue, purifies and sanctifies all actions, 
peoples solitude, and gives a foretaste of eternal joys. 
When you have once felt the delights of the divine 
intoxication which comes of this internal travail, then 
all is yours ! once take the lute on which we sing to 
God within your hands, and you will never part with 
it. Hence the solitude in which Angelic Spirits live ; 
hence their disdain of human joys. They are with- 
drawn from those who must die to live ; they hear the 
language of such beings, but they no longer understand 
their ideas ; they wonder at their movements, at what 
the world terms policies, material laws, societies. For 
them all mysteries are over ; truth, and truth alone, is 
theirs. They who have reached the point where their 
eyes discern the Sacred Portals, who, not looking back, 
not uttering one regret, contemplate worlds and com- 
prehend their destinies, such as they keep silence, 
wait, and bear their final struggles. The worst of all 



Seraphita. 183 

those struggles is the last ; at the zenith of all virtue 
is Resignation, — to be an exile and not lament, no 
longer to delight in earthly things and yet to smile, to 
belong to God and yet to stay with men ! You hear 
the voice that cries to you, ' Advance ! * Often celestial 
visions of descending Angels compass you about with 
songs of praise ; then, tearless, uncomplaining, must 
you watch them as they reascend the skies ! To mur- 
mur is to forfeit all. Resignation is a fruit that ripens 
at the gates of heaven. How powerful, how glorious 
the calm smile, the pure brow of the resigned human 
creature. Radiant is the light of that brow. They who 
live in its atmosphere gi-ow purer. That calm glance 
penetrates and softens. More eloquent by silence than 
the prophet by speech, such beings triumph by their 
simple presence. Their ears are quick to hear as a 
faithful dog listening for his master. Brighter than 
hope, stronger than love, higher than faith, that crea- 
ture of resignation is the virgin standing on the earth, 
who holds for a moment the conquered palm, then, 
rising heavenward, leaves behind her the imprint of her 
white, pure feet. When she has passed away men flock 
around and cry, ' See ! See ! ' Sometimes God holds 
her still in sight, — a figure to whose feet creep Forms 
and Species of Animality to be shown their way. She 
wafts the light exhahng from her hair, and they see ; 
she speaks, and thej' hear. ' A miracle ! ' they cr}". 
Often she triumphs in the name of God ; frightened 
men deny her and put her to death ; smiling, she lays 
down her sword and goes to the stake, having saved the 



184 SerapMta. 

Peoples. How many a pardoned Angel has passed 
from martyrdom to heaven ! Sinai, Golgotha are not 
in this place nor in that; Angels are crucified in every 
place, in every sphere. Sighs pierce to God from the 
whole universe. This earth on which we live is but a 
single sheaf of the great harvest ; humanity is but a 
species in the vast garden where the flowers of heaven ^ 
are cultivated. Everywhere God is like unto Himself, 
and everywhere, by prayer, it is easy to reach Him." 

With these words, which fell from the lips of another 
Hagar in the wilderness, burning the souls of the 
hearers as the live coal of the word inflamed Isaiah, 
this mysterious being paused as though to gather some 
remaining strength. Wilfrid and Minna dared not 
speak. Suddenly He lifted himself up to die : — 

" Soul of all things, oh my God, thou whom I love 
for Thyself ! Thou, Judge and Father, receive a love 
which has no limit. Give me of thine essence and 
thy faculties that I be wholly thine! Take me, that 
I no longer be myself ! Am I not purified? then cast 
me back into the furnace! If I be not yet proved in 
the fire, make me some nurturing ploughshare, or the 
Sword of victory! Grant me a glorious martyrdom in 
which to proclaim thy Word ! Rejected, I will bless 
thy justice. But if excess of love may win in a moment 
that which hard and patient labor cannot attain, then 
bear me upward in thy chariot of fire! Grant me 
triumph, or further trial, still will I bless thee ! To 
suffer for thee, is not that to triumph ? Take me, seize 
me, bear me away ! nay, if thou wilt, reject me ! Thou 



Seraphita. 185 

art He who can do no evil. Ah!" he cried, after a 
pause, " the bonds are breaking." 

"Spirits of the pure, ye sacred flock, come forth 
from the hidden places, come on the sm*face of the 
luminous waves ! The hour now is ; come, assemble ! 
Let us sing at the gates of the Sanctuary ; our songs 
shall drive away the final clouds. With one accord let 
us hail the Dawn of the Eternal Day. Behold the 
rising of the one True Light ! Ah, why may I not 
take with me these my friends ! Farewell, poor earth, 
Farewell ! " 



186 Seraphita, 



vn. 

THE ASSUMPTION. 

The last psalm was uttered neither by word, look, 
nor gesture, nor by any of those signs which men em- 
ploy to communicate their thoughts, but as the soul 
speaks to itself; for at the moment when Seraphita 
revealed herself in her true nature, her thoughts were 
no longer enslaved by human words. The violence of 
that last prayer had burst her bonds. Her soul, like a 
white dove, remained for an instant poised above the 
body whose exhausted substances were about to be 
annihilated. 

The aspiration of the Soul toward heaven was so 
contagious that Wilfrid and Minna, beholding those 
radiant scintillations of Life, perceived not Death. 

They had fallen on their knees when he had turned 
toward his Orient, and they shared his ecstasy. 

The fear of the Lord, which creates man a second 
time, purging awa}' his dross, mastered their hearts. 

Their eyes, veiled to the things of Earth, were opened 
to the Brightness of Heaven. 

Though, like the Seers of old called Prophets by men, 
they were filled with the terror of the Most High, yet 
like them they continued firm when they found them- 
selves within the radiance where the Glory of the 
Spirit shone. 



Seraphita. 187 

The veil of flesh, which, until now, had hidden that 
glor}' fi-om their ej'es, dissolved imperceptilDly away, 
and left them free to behold the Divine substance. 

They stood in the twilight of the Coming Dawn, 
whose feeble rays prepared them to look upon the 
True Light, to hear the Living Word, and 3'et not die. 

In this state the}' began to perceive the immeasur- 
able differences which separate the things of earth from 
the things of Heaven. 

Life, on the borders of which the}' stood, leaning 
upon each other, trembling and illuminated, like two 
children standing under shelter in presence of a con- 
flagration. That Life offered no lodgment to the senses. 

The ideas they used to interpret their vision to them- 
selves were to the things seen what the visible senses 
of a man are to his soul, the material covering of a 
divine essence. 

The departing Spirit was above them, shedding in- 
cense without odor, melody without sound. About 
them, where they stood, were neither surfaces, nor 
angles, nor atmosphere. 

They dared neither question him nor contemplate 
him ; they stood in the shadow of that Presence as 
beneath the burning rays of a tropical sun, fearing to 
raise their eyes lest the light should blast them. 

They knew they were beside him, without being able 
to perceive how it was that they stood, as in a dream, 
on the confines of the Visible and the Invisible, nor 
how they had lost sight of the Visible and how they 
beheld the Invisible. 



188 SerapTiita. 

To each other they said: "If he touch us, we can 
die ! " But the Spirit was now within the Infinite, 
and thej' knew not that neither time, nor space, nor 
death, existed there, and that a great gulf lay between 
them, although they thought themselves beside him. 

Their souls were not prepared to receive in its ful- 
ness a knowledge of the faculties of that Life ; they 
could have only faint and confused perceptions of it, 
suited to their weakness. 

Were it not so, the thunder of the Living "VVord,. 
whose far-off tones now reached their ears, and whose 
meaning entered their souls as life unites with bod}', — 
one echo of that Word would have consumed their being 
as a whirlwind of fire laps up a fragile straw. 

Therefore they saw only that which their nature, 
sustained by the strength of the Spirit, permitted them 
to see ; they heard that only which they were able to 
hear. 

And 3'et, though thus protected, they shuddered when 
the Voice of the anguished soul broke forth above them 
— the prayer of the Spirit awaiting Life and imploring^ 
it with a cry. 

That cry froze them to the very marrow of their 
bones. 

The Spirit knocked at the Sacred Portal. ' ' What 
wilt thou?" answered a Choir, whose question echoed 
among the worlds. " To go to God." " Hast thou con- 
quered?" "I have conquered the flesh through absti- 
nence, I have conquered false knowledge by humility, 
I have conquered pride by charity, I have conquered 



Seraphita. 189 

the earth b}- love ; I have paid my duos b}- suffering, 
I am purified in the fires of faith, I have longed for Life 
by pra^-er : I wait in adoration, and I am resigned." 

No answer came. 

" God's will be done ! " answered the Spirit, believ- 
ing that he was about to be rejected. 

His tears flowed and fell hke dew upon the heads of 
the two kneeling witnesses, who trembled before the 
justice of God. 

Suddenl}' the trumpets sounded, — the trumpets of 
Victory won by the Angel in this last trial. The re- 
verberation passed through space as sound through its 
echo, filling it, and shaking the universe which Wilfrid 
and Minna felt like an atom beneath their feet. They 
trembled under an anguish caused b}' the dread of the 
myster}' about to be accomplished. 

A great movement took place, as though the Eternal 
Legions, putting themselves in motion, were passing 
upward in spiral columns. The worlds revolved like 
clouds driven by a furious wind. It was all rapid. 

Suddenl}' the veils were rent away. The}' saw on 
high as it were a star, incomparably more lustrous than 
the most luminous of material stars, which detached it- 
self, and fell like a thunderbolt, dazzling as lightning. 
Its passage paled the faces of the pair, who thought it 
to be THE Light Itself. 

It was the Messenger of good tidings, the plume of 
whose helmet was a flame of Life. 

Behind him lay the swath of his way gleaming with a 
flood of the lights through which he passed. 



190 Seraphita. 

He bore a palm and a sword. He touched the Spirit 
with the palm, and the Spirit was transfigured. Its 
white wings noiselessly unfolded. 

This communication of The Light, changing the 
Spirit into a Seraph and clothing it with a glorious 
form, a celestial armor, poured down such effulgent 
rays that the two Seers were paralyzed. 

Like the three apostles to whom Jesus showed him- 
self, they felt the dead weight of their bodies which 
denied them a complete and cloudless intuition of The 
Word and The True Life. 

They comprehended the nakedness of their souls ; 
they were able to measure the poverty- of their light by 
comparing it — a humbling task — with the halo of the 
Seraph. 

A passionate desire to plunge back into the mire of 
earth and suffer trial took possession of them, — trial 
through which they might victoriously utter at the 
Sacred Gates the words of that radiant Seraph. 

The Seraph knelt before the Sanctuary, beholding 
it, at last, face to face ; and he said, raising his hands 
thitherward, "Grant that these two may have further 
sight ; they will love the Lord and proclaim His word." 

At this prayer a veil fell. Whether it were that the 
hidden force which held the Seers had momentarily 
annihilated their physical bodies, or that it raised their 
spirits above those bodies, certain it is that they felt 
within them a rending of the pure from the impure. 

The tears of the Seraph rose about them like a vapor, 
which hid the lower worlds from their knowledge, held 



Seraphita. \^\ 

them in its folds, bore them upward, gave them fort^et- 
fulness of earthly meanings and the power of compre- 
hending the meanings of things divine. 

The True Light shone ; it illumined the Creations, 
which seemed to them barren when the}- saw the source 
from which all worlds — Terrestrial, Spiritual, and 
Divine — derived their Motion. 

Each world possessed a centre to which converged all 
points of Its circumference. These worlds were them- 
selves the points which moved toward the centre of 
their system. Each system had its centre in great 
celestial regions which communicated with the flamino- 
and quenchless Motor of all that is. 

Thus, from the greatest to the smallest of the worlds, 
and from the smallest of the worlds to the smallest 
portion of the beings who compose it, all was individual, 
and all was, nevertheless, One and indivisible. 

What was the design of the Being, fixed in His es- 
sence and in His faculties, who transmitted that essence 
and those faculties without losing them? who mani- 
fested them outside of Himself without separating them 
from Himself? who rendered his creations outside of 
Himself fixed in their essence and mutable in their 
form? The pair thus called to the celestial festival 
could onlj' see the order and arrangement of created 
beings and admire the immediate result. The Angels 
alone see more. The}' know the means ; the}- com- 
prehend the final end. 

But what the two Elect were granted power to con- 
template, what they were able to bring back as a tcsti- 



192 Seraphita. 

mony which enlightened their minds forever after, was 
the proof of the action of the Worlds and of Beings ; 
the consciousness of the effort with which they all 
converge to the Result. 

They heard the divers parts of the Infinite forming 
one living melody ; and each time that the accord made 
itself felt like a mighty respiration, the Worlds drawn 
by the concordant movement inclined themselves toward 
the Supreme Being who, from His impenetrable centre, 
issued all things and recalled all things to Himself. 

This ceaseless alternation of voices and silence 
seemed the rhythm of the sacred hymn which resounds 
and prolongs its sound from age to age. 

Wilfrid and Minna were enabled to understand some 
of the mysterious sayings of Him who had appeared on 
earth in the form which to each of them had rendered 
him comprehensible, — to one Seraphitus, to the other 
Seraphita, — for they saw that all was homogeneous in 
the sphere where he now was. 

Light gave birth to melody, melody gave birth to 
light ; colors were light and melody ; motion was a 
Number endowed with Utterance ; all things were at 
once sonorous, diaphanous, and mobile ; so that each 
interpenetrated the other, the whole vast area was 
unobstructed and the Angels could surs^ey it from the 
depths of the Infinite. 

They perceived the puerility of human sciences, of 
which he had spoken to them. 

The scene was to them a prospect without horizou, 
a boundless space into which an all-consuming desire 



Seraphita. 193 

prompted them to plunge. But, fastened to their mis- 
erable bodies, they had the desire without the power to 
fulfil it. 

The Seraph, preparing for his flight, no longer looked 
towards them ; he had nothing now in common with 
Earth. 

Upward he rose ; the shadow of his luminous pres- 
ence covered the two Seers like a merciful veil, enabling 
them to raise their eyes and see him, rising in his glory 
to Heaven in company with the glad Archangel. 

He rose as the sun from the bosom of the Eastern 
waves ; but, more majestic than the orb and vowed to 
higher destinies, he could not be enchained like inferior 
creations in the spiral movement of the worlds ; he fol- 
lowed the line of the Infinite, pointing without de\'iation 
to the One Centre, there to enter his eternal life, — to 
receive there, in his faculties and in his essence, the 
power to enjo}' through Love, and the gift of com- 
prehending through Wisdom. 

The scene which suddenly unveiled itself to the eyes 
of the two Seers crushed them with a sense of its vast- 
ness ; they felt like atoms, whose minuteness was not 
to be compared even to the smallest particle which the 
infinite of divisibility enabled the mind of man to im- 
agine, brought into the presence of the infinite of Num- 
bers, which God alone can comprehend as He alone can 
comprehend Himself. 

Sti-ength and Love ! what heights, what depths in 
those two entities, whom the Seraph's first prayer 
placed like two links, as it were, to unite the im- 

13 



194 Seraphita. 

mensities of the lower worlds with the immensit}- of 
the higher universe ! 

They comprehended the invisible ties by which the 
material worlds are bound to the spiritual worlds. 
Remembering the subUme efforts of human genius, 
they were able to perceive the principle of all melod}- 
in the songs of heaven which gave sensations of color, 
of perfume, of thought, which recalled the innumerable 
details of all creations, as the songs of earth revive the 
infinite memories of love. 

Brought by the exaltation of their faculties to a point 
that cannot be described in anj' language, they were 
able to cast their eyes for an instant into the Divine 
World. There all was Rejoicing. 

Myriads of angels were flocking together, without 
confusion ; all alike yet all dissimilar, simple as the 
flower of the fields, majestic as the universe. 

Wilfrid and Minna saw neither their coming nor 
their going ; they appeared suddenly in the Infinite 
and filled it with their presence, as the stars shine in 
the invisible ether. 

The scintillations of their united diadems illumined 
space like the fires of the sky at dawn upon the moun- 
tains. Waves of light flowed from their hair, and their 
movements created tremulous undulations in space like 
the billows of a phosphorescent sea. 

The two Seers beheld the Seraph dimly in the midst 
of the immortal legions. Suddenh', as though all the 
arrows of a quiver had darted together, the Spirits 
swept away with a breath the last vestiges of the 



Seraphita. I95 

human form ; as the Seraph rose he became yet purer ; 
soon he seemed to them but a faint outline of what he 

had been at the moment of his transfiguration, Unes 

of fire without shadow. 

Higher he rose, receiving from circle to circle some 
new gift, while the sign of his election was transmitted 
to each sphere into which, more and more purified, he 
entered. 

No voice was silent ; the hymn diffused and multiplied 
itself in all its modulations : — 

"Hail to him who enters living! Come, flower of 
the Worlds ! diamond from the fires of suffering ! pearl 
without spot, desire without flesh, new link of earth and 
heaven, be Light! Conquering spirit, Queen of the 
world, come for thy crown ! Victor of earth, receive 
th}' diadem ! Thou art of us 1 " 

The virtues of the Seraph shone forth in all their 
beaut}-. 

His earliest desire for heaven re-appeared, tender as 
childhood. The deeds of his life, like constellations, 
adorned him with their brightness. His acts of faith 
shone like the Jacinth of heaven, the color of sidereal 
fires. The pearls of Charit}' were upon him, — a chap- 
let of garnered tears ! Love divine surrounded him with 
roses ; and the whiteness of his Resignation obliterated 
all earthl}' trace. 

Soon, to the eyes of the Seers, he was but a point of 
flame, growing brighter and brighter as its motion was 
lost in the melodious acclamations which welcomed his 
entrance into heaven. 



196 Seraphita. 

The celestial accents made the two exiles weep. 

Suddenly a silence as of death spread like a mourn- 
ing veil from the first to the highest sphere, throwing 
Wilfrid and Minna into a state of intolerable ex- 
pectation. 

At this moment the Seraph was lost to sight within 
the Sanctuary, receiving there the gift of Life Eternal. 

A movement of adoration made by the Host of heaven 
filled the two Seers with ecstasy mingled with terror. 
Thej' felt that all were prostrate before the Throne, in 
all the spheres, in the Spheres Divine, in the Spiritual 
Spheres, and in the Worlds of Darkness. 

The Angels bent the knee to celebrate the Seraph's 
glor}' ; the Spirits bent the knee in token of their im- 
patience ; others bent the knee in the dark abysses, 
shuddering with awe. 

A might}' cr}' of joy gushed forth, as the spring 
gushes forth to its millions of flowering herbs sparkling 
with diamond dew-drops in the sunlight ; at that instant 
the Seraph reappeared, effulgent, crying, " Eternal ! 
Eternal ! Eternal ! " 

The universe heard the cry and understood it ; it 
penetrated the spheres as God penetrates them ; it took 
possession of the infinite ; the Seven Divine Worlds 
heard the Voice and answered. 

A mighty movement was perceptible, as though whole 
planets, purified, were rising in dazzling light to be- 
come Eternal. 

Had the Seraph obtained, as a first mission, the work 
of calling to God the creations permeated by His Word? 



Seraphita. I97 

But already the sublime Hallelujah was soundinf^ 
in the ear of the desolate ones as the distant undula- 
tions of an ended melody. Already the celestial lights 
were fading like the gold and crimson tints of a setlino- 
sun. Death and Impurity recovered their prey. 

As the two mortals re-entered the prison of flesh, 
from which their spirit had momentarily been delivered 
by some priceless sleep, they felt like those who wake 
after a night of brilliant dreams, the memory of which 
still lingers in their soul, though their body retains no 
consciousness of them, and human language is unable 
to give utterance to them. 

The deep darkness of the sphere that was now about 
them was that of the sun of the visible worlds. 

" Let us descend to those lower regions," said Wilfrid. 

" Let us do what he told us to do," answered Minna. 
" We have seen the worlds on their march to God ; we 
know the Path. Our diadem of stars is There." 

Floating downward through the abysses, the}- re- 
entered the dust of the lesser worlds, and saw the 
Earth, like a subterranean cavern, suddenly illuminated 
to their eyes by the light which their souls brought 
with them, and which still environed them in a cloud 
of the paling harmonies of heaven. The sight was that 
which of old struck the inner ej'es of Seers and Prophets. 
Ministers of all religions. Preachers of all pretended 
truths. Kings consecrated by Force and Terror, War- 
riors and Mighty men apportioning the Peoples among 
them, the Learned and the Rich standing above the 
suffering, noisy crowd, and noisily grinding them beneath 



198 SerapJiita. 

their feet, — all were there, accompanied by their wives 
and servants ; all were robed in stuffs of gold and silver 
and azure studded with pearls and gems torn from the 
bowels of Earth, stolen from the depths of Ocean, for 
which Humanity had toiled throughout the centuries, 
sweating and blaspheming. But these treasures, these 
splendors, constructed of blood, seemed worn-out rags \Y 
to the eyes of the two Exiles. " What do you there, ' 
in motionless ranks?" cried Wilfrid. They answered 
not. "What do you there, motionless?" They an- 
swered not. Wilfrid waved his hands over them, cry- 
ing in a loud voice, " What do you there, in motionless 
ranks ? " All, with unanimous action, opened their 
garments and gave to sight their withered bodies, eaten 
with worms, putrified, crumbling to dust, rotten with 
horrible diseases. 

' ' You lead the nations to Death," Wilfrid said to 
them. "You have depraved the earth, perverted the 
Word, prostituted justice. After devouring the grass 
of the fields you have killed the lambs of the fold. Do 
you think yourself justified because of 3'our sores ? I 
will warn my brethren who have ears to hear the Voice, 
and they will come and drink of the spring of Living 
Waters which you have hidden." 

" Let us save our strength for Pra3"er," said Minna. 
"Wilfred, thy mission is not that of the Prophets or 
the Avenger or the Messenger ; we are still on the 
confines of the lowest sphere ; let us endeavor to rise 
through space on the wings of Prayer." 

" Thou shalt be all my love ! " 



Seraphita. I99 

«' Thou Shalt be all my strength ! " 
" We have seen the Mysteries; we are, each to the 
other, the only being here below to whom Joy and 
Sadness are comprehensible ; let us pray, therefore : 
we know the Path, let us walk in it." 

" Give me thy hand," said the Young Girl, " if we 
walk together, the way will be to me less hard and 
long." 

" With thee, with thee alone," replied the Man, " can 
I cross the awful solitude without complaint." 

" Together we will go to Heaven," she said. 

The clouds gathered and formed a darksome dais. 
Suddenly the pair found themselves kneeling beside 
a body which old David was guarding from curious 
eyes, resolved to bury it himself. 

Beyond those walls the first summer of the nineteenth 
century shone forth in all its glory. The two lovers 
believed they heard a Voice in the sun-rays. They 
breathed a celestial essence from the new-born flowers. 
Holding each other by the hand, they said, " That 
illimitable ocean which shines below us is but an imaare 
of what we saw above." 

" Where are you going? " asked Monsieur Becker. 

" To God," they answered. " Come with us, father." 



THE ALKAHEST; 

OR, 

THE HOUSE OF CLAES. 



" iLuJa^'' 



THE ALKAHEST: 



OR, 



THE HOUSE OF CLAES. 



I. 



There is a house at Douai in the rue de Paris, 
whose aspect, interior arrangements, and details have 
preserved, to a greater degree than those of other domi- 
ciles, the characteristics of the old Flemish buildings, 
so naively adapted to the patriarchal manners and 
customs of that excellent land. Before describing this 
house it may be well, in the interest of other writers, to 
explain the necessity for such didactic preliminaries, — 
since they have roused a protest from certain ignorant 
and voracious readers who want emotions without 
undergoing the generating process, the flower without 
the seed, the child without gestation. Is Art supposed ^ 
to have higher powers than Nature ? 

The events of human existence, whether public or • 
private, are so closely allied to architecture that the 



2 Tlie Alkahest. 

majority of observers can reconstruct nations and in- 
dividuals, in their habits and ways of life, from the 
remains of public monuments or the relics of a home. 
Archeeology is to social nature what comparative anat- 
omy is to organized nature. A mosaic tells the tale of 
a society, as the skeleton of an ichthyosaurus opens 
up a creative epoch. All things are linked together, 
and all are therefore deducible. Causes suggest effects, 
effects lead back to causes. Science resuscitates even 
the warts of the past ages. 

Hence the keen interest inspired by an architectural 
description, provided the imagination of the writer does 
not distort essential facts. The mind is enabled by rigid 
deduction to link it with the past ; and to man, the 
past is singularly like the future ; tell him what has 
been, and you seldom fail to show him what will be. 
It is rare indeed that the picture of a locality where 
lives are lived does not recall to some their dawning 
hopes, to others their wasted faith. The comparison 
between a present which disappoints man's secret 
wishes and a future which ma}^ realize them, is an in- 
exhaustible source of sadness or of placid content. 

Thus, it is almost impossible not to feel a certain 
tender sensibility over a picture of Flemish life, if the ac- 
cessories are clearly given. Why so? Perhaps, among 
other forms of existence, it offers the best conclusion 
to man's uncertainties. It has its social festivities, its 



The Alkahest. J 

famil}' ties, and the easy aflauence which proves the 
stability of its comfortable well-being ; it does not lack 
repose amounting almost to beatitude; but, above all, 
it expresses the calm monotony of a frankly sensuous 
happiness, where enjoyment stifles desire by anticipat- 
ing it. "Whatever value a passionate soul may attach 
to the tumultuous life of feeling, it never sees without 
emotion the symbols of this Flemish nature, where the 
throbbings of the heart are so well regulated that 
superficial minds deny the heart's existence. The 
crowd prefers the abnormal force which overflows to 
that which moves with steady persistence. The world 
has neither time nor patience to realize the immense 
power concealed beneath an appearance of uniformity. 
Therefore, to impress this multitude caiTied away on 
the current of existence, passion, like a gi-eat artist, 
is compelled to go be^'ond the mark, to exaggerate, as 
did Michael Angelo, Bianca Capello, Mademoiselle de 
la Valliere, Beethoven, and Paganini. Far-seeing minds 
alone disapprove such excess, and respect onlv the en- 
ergy represented by a finished execution whose perfect 
quiet charms superior men. The life of this essentially 
thrift}^ people amply fulfils the conditions of happiness 
which the masses desire as the lot of the average 
citizen. 

A refined materialism is stamped on all the habits of 
Flemish life. English comfort is harsh in tone and 



4 The Alkahest. 

arid in color ; whereas the old-fashioned Flemish inte- 
riors rejoice the eye with their mellow tints, and the 
feelings with their genuine heartiness. There, work im- 
plies no weariness, and the pipe is a happy adaptation 
of Neapolitan far-niente. Thence comes the peaceful 
sentiment in Art (its most essential condition), pa- 
tience, and the element which renders its creations 
durable, namely, conscience. Indeed, the Flemish char- 
acter lies in the two words, patience and conscience : 
words which seem at first to exclude the richness of 
poetic light and shade, and to make the manners and 
customs of the couutr}- as flat as its vast plains, as 
cold as its foggy skies. And j'et it is not so. Civili- 
zation has brought her power to bear, and has modified 
all things, even the effects of climate. If we observe 
attentively the productions of various parts of the 
globe, we are surprised to find that the prevailing tints 
from the temperate zones are gra}' or fawn, while the 
more brilliant colors belong to the products of the 
hotter climates. The manners and customs of a coun- 
try must naturally conform to this law of nature. 

Flanders, which in former times was essentially 
dun-colored and monotonous in tint, learned the means 
of irradiating its smoky atmosphere through its politi- 
cal vicissitudes, which brought it under the successive 
dominion of Burgund}', Spain, and France, and threw 
it into fraternal relations with Germany and HoUand. 



The Alkahest. 5 

From Spain it acquired the luxury of scarlet dj-es and 
shimmering satins, tapestries of vigorous design, plumes, 
mandolins, and courtly bearing. In exchange for its 
linen and its laces, it brought from Venice that fairy 
glass-ware in which wine sparkles and seems the mel- 
lower. From Austria it learned the ponderous di- 
plomacy which, to use a popular saying, takes three 
steps backward to one forward ; while its trade with 
India poured into it the grotesque designs of China and 
the marvels of Japan. 

And yet, in spite of its patience in gathering such 
treasures, its tenacity in parting with no possession once 
gained, its endurance of all things, Flanders was con- 
sidered nothing more than the general storehouse of 
Europe, until the day when the discovery of tobacco 
brought into one smoky outline the scattered features 
of its national physiognomy. Thenceforth, and not- 
withstanding the parceUing out of their territory, the 
Flemings became a people homogeneous through their 
pipes and beer.^ 

After assimilating, by constant sober regulation of 
conduct, the products and the ideas of its masters and 
its neighbors, this country of Flanders, by nature so 

1 Flanders was parcelled into three divisions ; of which East- 
ern Flanders, capital Ghent, and Western Flanders, capital Bruges, 
are two provinces of Belgium. French Flanders, capital Lille, is 
the Departement dii Nord of France. Douai, about twenty mile* 
Irom Lille, is the chief town of the arrondissement du Nord. 



6 The Alkahest. 

tame and devoid of poetry, worked out for itself an 
original existence, with characteristic manners and cus- 
toms which bear no signs of servile imitation. Art 
stripped off its ideality and produced form alone. We 
may seek in vain for plastic grace, the swing of comedy, 
dramatic action, musical genius, or the bold flight of 
ode and epic. On the other hand, the people are fer- 
tile in discoveries, and trained to scientific discussions 
which demand time and the midnight oil. All things 
bear the ear-mark of temporal enjoyment. There men 
look exclusively to the thing that is : their thoughts are 
so scrupulously bent on supplying the wants of this life 
that they have never risen, in any direction, above the 
level of this present earth. The sole idea they have 
ever conceived of the future is that of a thrift^^, prosaic 
statecraft : their revolutionaiy vigor came from a do- 
mestic desire to live as they liked, with their elbows 
on the table, and to take their ease under the projecting 
roofs of their own porches. 

The consciousness of well-being and the spirit of inde- 
pendence which comes of prosperity begot in Flanders, 
sooner than elsewhere, that craving for liberty wUich, 
later, permeated all Europe. Thus the compactness of 
their ideas, and the tenacity which education grafted on 
their nature made the Flemish people a formidable 
body of men in the defence of their rights. Among 
them nothing is half-done, — neither houses, furniture, 



The Alkahest. 7 

dikes, husbandry, nor revolutions ; and they hold a 
monopoh' of all that they undertake. The mauufacturo 
of linen, and that of lace, a work of patient agriculture 
and still more patient industry, are hereditary like tht-ir 
family fortunes. If we were asked to show in human 
form the purest specimen of solid stabiUty, we could do 
no better than point to a portrait of some old burgo- 
master, capable, as was proved again and again, of 
djiug in a commonplace way, and without the incite- 
ments of glory, for the welfare of his Free-town. 

Yet we shall find a tender and poetic side to this 
patriarchal Hfe, which will come naturally to the surfiice 
in the description of an ancient house which, at the 
period when this history begins, was one of the last 
in Douai to preserve the old-time characteristics of 
Flemish life. 

Of all the towns in the Departement du Nord, Douai 
is, alas, the most modernized : there the innovating 
spirit has made the greatest strides, and the love of 
social progress is the most diffused. There the old 
buildings are daily disappearing, and the manners and 
customs of a venerable past are being rapidl}' obhterated. 
Parisian ideas and fashions and modes of life now rule 
the day, and soon nothing will be left of that ancient 
Flemish life but the warmth of its hospitality, its tra- 
ditional Spanish courtesj', and the wealth and cleanli- 
ness of Holland. Mansions of white stone are replacing 



8 The Alkahest. 

the old brick buildings, and the cosy comfort of Bata- 
vian interiors is fast yielding before the capriciou* 
elegance of Parisian novelties. 

The house in which the events of this history oc» 
curred stands at about the middle of the rue de Paris, 
and has been known at Douai for more than two cen- 
turies as the House of Claes. The Van Claes were 
formerly one of the great families of craftsmen to 
whom, in various lines of production, the Netherlands 
owed a commercial supremacy' which it has never lost. 
For a long period of time the Claes lived at Ghent, and 
were, from generation to generation, the S3^ndics of the 
powerful Guild of "Weavers. "When the great city re- 
volted against Charles V., who tried to suppress its 
privileges, the head of the Claes family was so deeply 
compromised in the rebellion that, foreseeing a catas- 
trophe and bound to share the fate of his associates, he 
secretly sent wife, children, and property to France 
before the Emperor invested the town. The s^'ndic's 
forebodings were justified. Together with other burgh- 
ers who were excluded from the capitulation, he was 
hanged as a rebel, though he was, in reality, the 
defender of the liberties of Ghent. 

The death of Claes and his associates bore fruit. 
Their needless execution cost the King of Spain the 
greater part of his possessions in the Netherlands. Of 
all the seed sown in the earth, the blood of martyrs 



The Alkahest. 9 

gives the quickest harvest. When Philip the Second, 
who punished revolt through two generations, stretched 
his iron sceptre over Douai, the Claes preserved their 
great wealth by allying themselves in marriage with the 
very noble family of Molina, whose elder branch, then 
poor, thus became rich enough to buy the county of 
Nourho which they had long held titularly in the king- 
dom of Leon. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, after 
vicissitudes which are of no interest to our present 
purpose, the family of Claes was represented at Douai 
in the person of Monsieur Balthazar Claes-Molina, 
Comte de Nourho, who preferred to be called simply 
Balthazar Claes. Of the immense fortune amassed by 
his ancestors, who had kept in motion over a thousand 
looms, there remained to him some fifteen thousand 
francs a year from landed property in the arrondisse- 
ment of Douai, and the house in the rue de Paris, whose 
furniture in itself was a fortune. As to the family pos- 
sessions in Leon, they had been in litigation between 
the Molinas of Douai and the branch of the family 
which remained in Spain. The Molinas of Loon 
won the domain and assumed the title of Comtes de 
Nourho, though the Claes alone had a legal right to it. 
But the pride of a Belgian burgher was superior to the 
haughty arrogance of Castile: after the civil rights 
were instituted, Balthazar Claes cast aside the ragged 



10 The Alkahest. 

robes of his Spanish nobility for his more illustrioua 
descent from the Ghent martyr. 

The patriotic sentiment was so strongly developed 
in the famihes exiled under Charles V. that, to the 
very close of the eighteenth century, the Claes remained 
faithful to the manners and customs and traditions of 
their ancestors. They married into none but the purest 
burgher families, and required a certain number of 
aldermen and burgomasters in the pedigree of every 
bride-elect before admitting her to the family. They 
sought their wives in Bruges or Ghent, in Liege or in 
Holland ; so that the time-honored domestic customs 
might be perpetuated around their hearthstones. This 
social group became more and more restricted, until, 
at the close of the last centurj', it mustered only some 
seven or eight families of the parliamentary nobility, 
whose manners and flowing robes of office and magiste- 
rial gravity (partly Spanish) harmonized well with the 
habits of their life. 

The inhabitants of Douai held the family in a reli- 
gious esteem that was well-nigh superstition. The 
sturdy honest}^ the untainted loyalty of the Claes, their 
unfailing decorum of manners and conduct, made them 
the objects of a reverence which found expression in 
the name, — the House of Claes. The whole spirit of 
ancient Flanders breathed in that mansion, which af- 
forded to the lovers of burgher antiquities a tj'pe of the 



The AUiahest. W 

modest houses which the wealthy craftsmen of the 
Middle Ages constructed for their homes. 

The chief ornament of the fatjade was an oakcu door, 
in two sections, studded with nails driven in the pat- 
tern of a quincunx, in the centre of which the Claes 
pride had carved a pair of shuttles. The recess of the 
doorway, which was built of freestone, was topped by 
a pointed arch bearing a little shrine surmounted by a 
cross, in which was a statuette of Sainte-Genevieve ply- 
ing her distaff. Though time had left its mark upon 
the delicate workmanship of portal and shrine, the ex- 
treme care taken of it by the servants of the house 
allowed the passers-by to note all its details. 

The casing of the door, formed by fluted pilasters, 
•was dark gray in color, and so highly polished that it 
shone as if varnished. On either side of the doorwav, 
on the gi'ound-floor, were two windows, which resembled 
all the other windows of the house. The casing of 
white stone ended below the sill in arichl}' carved shell, 
and rose above the window in an arch, supported at its 
apex by the head-piece of a cross, which divided the 
glass sashes in four unequal parts ; for the transversal 
bar, placed at the height of that in a Latin cross, made 
the lower sashes of the window nearly double the height 
of the upper, the latter rounding at the sides into the 
arch. The coping of the arch was ornamented with 
three rows of brick, placed one above the other, the 



12 TJie Alkahest. 

bricks alternately projecting or retreating to the depth 
of an inch, giving the effect of a Greek moulding. The 
glass panes, which were small and diamond-shaped, 
were set in very slender leading, painted red. The 
walls of the house, of brick pointed with white mortar, 
were braced at regular distances, and at the angles of 
the house, b}'' stone courses. 

The first floor was pierced by five windows, the sec- 
ond by three, while the attic had only one large circular 
opening in five divisions, surrounded by a freestone 
moulding and placed in the centre of the triangular ped- 
iment defined by the gable-roof, like the rose-window of 
a cathedral. At the peak was a vane in the shape of a 
weaver's shuttle threaded with flax. Both sides of the 
large triangular pediment which formed the wall of the 
gable were dentelled squarely into something like steps, 
as low down as the string-course of the upper floor, 
where the rain from the roof fell to right and left of the 
house through the jaws of a fantastic gargoyle. A 
freestone foundation projected like a step at the base 
of the house ; and on either side of the entrance, be- 
tween the two windows, was a trap-door, clamped by 
heavy iron bands, through which the cellars were 
entered, — a last vestige of ancient usages. 

From the time the house was built, this facade had 
been carefull}' cleaned twice a year. If a little mortar 
fell from between the bricks, the crack was instantly 



The Alkahest. 18 

filled up. The sashes, the sills, the copings, were 
dusted oftener than the most precious sculptures in the 
Lou\Te. The front of the house bore no signs of decay ; 
notwithstanding the deepened color which age had given 
to the bricks, it was as well preserved as a choice old 
picture, or some rare book cherished by an amateur, 
which would be ever new were it not for the bUstering 
of our climate and the eflEect of gases, whose pernicious 
breath threatens our own health. 

The cloudy skies and humid atmosphere of Flanders, 
and the shadows produced by the narrowness of the 
street, sometimes diminished the brilliancy which the 
old house derived from its cleanliness; moreover, 
the very care bestowed upon it made it rather sad and 
chilling to the eye. A poet might have wished some 
leafage about the shrine, a little moss in the crevices of 
the freestone, a break in the even courses of the brick ; 
he would have longed for the swaUow to build her nest 
in the red coping that roofed the arches of the windows. 
The precise and immaculate air of this facade, a little 
worn by perpetual rubbing, gave the house a tone of 
severe propriety and estimable decency which would 
have driven a romanticist out of the neighborhood, had 
he happened to take lodgings over the way. 

When a visitor had pulled the braided iron wire bell- 
cord which hung fi-om the top of the pilaster of the 
doorway, and the servant- woman, coming from within, 



14 The Alkahest. 

had admitted him through the side of the double-door 
in which was a small grated loop-hole, that half of the 
door escaped from her hand and swung back by its own 
weight with a solemn, ponderous sound that echoed 
along the roof of a wide paved archway and through 
the depths of the house, as though the door had been of 
iron. This archwa}^ painted to resemble marble, al- 
ways clean and daily sprinkled with fresh sand, led into 
a large court-yard paved with smooth square stones of 
a greenish color. On the left were the linen-rooms, 
kitchens, and servants' hall ; to the right, the wood- 
house, coal-house, and offices, whose doors, walls, and 
windows were decorated with designs kept exquisitely 
clean. The daylight, threading its waj' between four 
red walls chequered with white lines, caught ros}' tints 
and reflections which gave a mysterious gi*ace and fani 
tastic appearance to faces, and even to trifling details. 

A second house, exactly like the building on the 
street, and called in Flanders the " back-quarter," stood 
at the farther end of the court-yard, and was used ex- 
clusively as the family dwelling. The first room on the 
ground-floor was a parlor, lighted by two windows on 
the court-3'ard, and two more looking out upon a gar- 
den which was of the same size as the house. Two 
glass doors, placed exactly opposite to each other, led 
at one end of the room to the garden, at the other 
to the court-yard, and were in line with the archway 



The Alkahest. 15 

and the street door; so that a visitor cntcrinfr the 
latter could see through to the greenery which draped 
the lower end of the garden. The front building, which 
was reserved for receptions and the lodging-rooms of 
guests, held many objects of art and accumulated 
wealth, but none of them equalled in the eyes of a 
Claes, nor indeed in the judgment of a connoisseur, 
the treasures contained in the parlor, where for over 
two centuries the family life had glided on. 

The Claes who died for the liberties of Ghent, and 
who might in these days be thought a mere ordinary 
craftsman if the historian omitted to say that he pos- 
sessed over fort}' thousand silver marks, obtained by 
the manufacture of sail-cloth for the all-powerful Vene- 
tian navy, — this Claes had a friend in the famous 
sculptor in wood, Van Huysum of Bruges. The artist 
had dipped many a time into the purse of the rich 
craftsman. Some time before the rebellion of the men 
of Ghent, Van Huysum, grown rich himself, had secretly 
carved for his friend a wall-decoration in ebonj-, repre- 
senting the chief scenes in the life of Van Artevelde, — 
that brewer of Ghent who, for a brief hour, was King 
of Flanders. This wall- covering, of which there were 
no less than sixt}' panels, contained about fourteen 
hundred principal figures, and was held to be Van 
fluy sum's masterpiece. The officer appointed to guard 
the burghers whom Charles V. determined to hang when 



16 The Alkahest. 

he re-entered his native town, proposed, it is said, to 
Van Claes to let him escape if he would give him Van 
Huysum's great work ; but the weaver had already- 
despatched it to Douai. 

The parlor, whose walls were entirely panelled with 
this carving, which Van Huysum, out of regard for the 
martyr's memory, came to Douai to frame in wood 
painted in lapis-lazuli with threads of gold, is therefore 
the most complete work of this master, whose least carv- 
ings now sell for nearly their weight in gold. Hanging 
over the fire-place, Van Claes the martyr, painted by 
Titian in his robes as president of the Court of Parchons, 
still seemed the head of the family, who venerated him 
as their greatest man. The chimnej'-piece, originally 
in stone with a very high mantle-shelf, had been made 
over in marble during the last century ; on it now stood 
an old clock and two candlesticks with five twisted 
branches, in bad taste, but of solid silver. The four 
windows were draped by wide curtains of red damask 
with a flowered black design, lined with white silk ; the 
furniture, covered with the same material, had been ren- 
ovated in the time of Louis XIV. The floor, evidently 
modern, was laid in large squares of white wood bor- 
dered with strips of oak. The ceiling, formed of many 
oval panels, in each of which Van Huysum had carved 
a grotesque mask, had been respected and allowed to 
keep the brown tones of the native Dutch oak. 



The Alkahest. 17 

In the four corners of this parlor were truncated 
columns, supporting candelabra exactly like those on 
the mantle-shelf; and a round table stood in the middle 
of the room. Along the walls card-tables were sym- 
metricall}' placed. On two gilded consoles with marble 
slabs there stood, at the period when this history be 
gins, two glass globes filled with water, in which, abov. 
a bed of sand and shells, red and gold and silver fisi 
were swimming about. The room was both brillian'i 
and sombre. The ceiling necessarily absorbed the light 
and reflected none. Although on the garden side all was 
bright and glowing, and the sunshine danced upon the 
ebony carvings, the windows on the court-yard admitted 
so little light that the gold threads in the lapis-lazuli 
scarcely glittered on the opposite wall. This parlor, 
which could be gorgeous on a fine day, was usually, 
under the Flemish skies, filled with soft shadows and 
melancholy russet tones, like those shed by the sun on 
the tree-tops of the forests in autumn. 

Tb is unnecessary to continue this description of the 
House of Claes, in other parts of which many scenes 
of this history will occur : at present, it is enough to 
make known its general arrangement. 



18 The Alkahest. 



XL 



Towards the end of August, 1812, on a Sunday 
evening after vespers, a woman was sitting in a deep 
armchair placed before one of the windows looking out 
upon the garden. The sun's rays fell obliquely upon 
the house and athwart the parlor, breaking into fan- 
tastic lights on the carved panellings of the wall, and 
wrapping the woman in a crimson halo projected through 
the damask curtains which draped the window. Even 
an ordinary painter, had he sketched this woman at this^ 
particular moment, would assuredly have produced a 
striking picture of a head that was full of pain and mel- 
ancholy. The attitude of the body, and that of the feet 
stretched out befoi-e her, showed the prostration of one 
who loses consciousness of physical being in the con- 
centration of powers absorbed in a fixed idea : she was 
following its gleams in the far future, just as sometimes 
on the shores of the sea, we gaze at a ray of sunlight 
which pierces the clouds and draws a luminous line 
to the horizon. 

The hands of this woman hung nerveless outside the 
arms of her chair, and her head, as if too heavy to hold 



The Alkahest. \g 

«p, lay back upon its cushions. A dress of white cam- 
bric, very full and flowing, hindered any judgment as to 
the proportions of her figure, and the bust was con- 
cealed by the folds of a scarf crossed on the bosom and 
negligently knotted. If the light had not thrown into 
relief her face, which she seemed to show in prefer- 
ence to the rest of her person, it would still have been 
impossible to escape riveting the attention exclusively 
upon it. Its expression of stupefaction, which was cold 
and rigid despite hot tears that were rolling from her 
eyes, would have struck the most thoughtless mind. 
Nothing is more terrible to behold than excessive grief 
that is rarely allowed to break forth, of which traces 
were left on this woman's face like lava congealed 
about a crater. She might have been a dying mother 
compelled to leave her children in abj'smal depths of 
wretchedness, unable to bequeath them to an}' human 
protector. 

The countenance of this lady, then about fort}' years 
of age and not nearly so far from handsome as she had 
been in her 3'outh, bore none of the characteristics of a 
Flemish woman. Her thick black hair fell in heavy 
curls upon her shoulders and about her cheeks. The 
forehead, very prominent, and narrow at the temples, 
was yellow in tint, but beneath it sparkled two black 
eyes that were capable of emitting flames. Her face, 
altogether Spanish, dark skinned, with little color and 



20 The Alkahest. 

pitted by the small-pox, attracted the eye by the beauty 
of its oval, whose outline, though slightly impaired by 
time, preserved a finished elegance and dignity, and 
regained at times its full perfection when some effort of 
the soul restored its pristine purity. The most notice- 
able feature in this strong face was the nose, aquUine 
as the beak of an eagle, and so sharply curved at the 
middle as to give the idea of an interior malformation ; 
yet there was an air of indescribable delicacy about it, 
and the partition between the nostrils was so thin that 
a rosy light shone through it. Though the lips, which 
were large and curved, betrayed the pride of noble 
birth, their expression was one of kindliness and natu- 
ral courtesy. 

The beauty of this vigorous yet feminine face might 
indeed be questioned, but the face itself commanded 
attention. Short, deformed, and lame, this woman re- 
mained all the longer unmarried because the world ob- 
stinately refused to credit her with gifts of mind. 
Yet there were men who were deeply stirred by the pas- 
sionate ardor of that face and its tokens of ineffable 
tenderness, and who remained under a charm that was 
seemingly irreconcilable with such personal defects. 

She was very like her grandfather, the Duke of Casa- 
Real, a grandee of Spain. At this moment, when we 
first see her, the charm which in earlier days despoti- 
cally grasped the soul of poets and lovers of poesy now 



The Alkahest. 21 

emanated from that head with greater vigor than at any 
former period of her life, spending itseh", as it were, 
upon the void, and expressing a nature of all-powerful 
fascination over men, though it was at the same time 
powerless over destiny. 

When her eyes turned from the glass globes, where 
they were gaziug at the fish they saw not, she raised 
them with a despairing action, as if to invoke the skies. 
Her sufferings seemed of a kind that are told to God 
alone. The silence was unbroken save for the chirp 
of crickets and the shrill whirr of a few locusts, coming 
from the little garden then hotter than an oven, and the 
dull sound of silver and plates, and the moving of chairs 
in the adjoining room, where a servant was preparing 
to serve the dinner. 

At this moment, the distressed woman roused herself 
from her absti-action and listened attentively ; she took 
her handkerchief, wiped away her tears, attempted to 
smile, and so resolutely effaced the expression of pain 
that was stamped on ever}- feature that she pres- 
ently seemed in the state of happy indifference which 
comes with a life exempt from care. Whether it were 
that the habit of living in this house to which infirmities 
confined her enabled her to perceive certain natural 
effects that are imperceptible to the senses of others, but 
which persons under the influence of excessive feeling 
are keen to discover, or whether Nature, in compensation 



22 The Alkahest. 

for her physical defects, had given her more delicate 
sensations than better organized beings, — it is certain 
that this woman had heard the steps of a man in a gallery 
built above the kitchens and the servants' hall, b}' which 
the front house communicated with the "back-quarter." 
The steps grew more distinct. Soon, without possess- 
ing the power of this ardent creature to abolish space 
and meet her other self, even a stranger would have 
heard the foot-fall of a man upon the staircase which 
led down from the gallerj' to the parlor. 

The sound of that step would have startled the most 
heedless being into thought ; it was impossible to hear 
it coolly. A precipitate, headlong step produces fear. 
When a man springs forward and cries, " Fire ! " his 
feet speak as loudly as his voice. If this be so, then a 
contrary gait ought not to cause less powerful emotion. 
The slow approach, the dragging step of the coming 
man might have irritated an unreflecting spectator ; but 
an observer, or a nervous person, would undoubtedly 
have felt something akin to terror at the measured tread 
of feet that seemed devoid of life, and under which the 
stairs creaked loudly, as though two iron weights were 
striking them alternately. The mind recognized at 
once either the heavy, undecided step of an old man or 
the majestic tread of a great thinker bearing the worlds 
with him. 

When the man had reached the lowest stair, and had 



TJie Alkahest, 03 

planted both feet upon the tiled floor with a hesitating, 
uncertain movement, he stood still for a moment on the 
wide landing which led on one side to the servants' hall, 
and on the other to the parlor through a door concealed 
in the panelling of that room, —as was another door, 
leading from the parlor to the dining-room. At this 
moment a slight shudder, like the sensation caused by 
an electric spark, shook the woman seated in the arm- 
chair ; then a soft smile brightened her lips, and her 
face, moved by the expectation of a pleasure, shone like 
that of an Italian Madonna. She suddenly gained 
strength to drive her terrors back into the depths of 
her heart. Then she turned her face to the panel of 
the wall which she knew was about to open, and which 
in fact was now pushed in with such brusque violence 
that the poor woman herself seemed jarred by the shock. 
Balthazar Claes suddenly appeared, made a few steps 
forward, did not look at the woman, or if he looked at 
her did not see her, and stood erect in the middle of 
the parlor, leaning his half-bowed head on his right 
hand. A sharp pang to which the woman could not 
accustom herself, although it was daily renewed, wnnig 
her heart, dispelled her smile, contracted the sallow 
forehead between the e3-ebrows, indenting that line 
which the frequent expression of excessive feeling 
scores so deeply : her eyes filled with tears, but she 
wiped them quickly as she looked at Balthazar. 



24 The Alkahest. 

It was impossible not to be deeply impressed by this 
head of the family of Claes. When young, he must 
have resembled the noble family martyr who had 
threatened to be another Artevelde to Charles V. ; but 
as he stood there at this moment, he seemed over sixty 
years of age, though he was only fifty ; and this prema- 
ture old age had destroyed the honorable likeness. His 
tall figure was slightly bent, — either because his labors, 
whatever they were, obliged him to stoop, or that the 
spinal column was curved by the weight of his head. 
He had a broad chest and square shoulders, but the 
lower parts of the body were lank and wasted, though 
nervous ; and this discrepancy in a ph3'sica] organiza- 
tion evidently once perfect puzzled the mind which 
endeavored to explain this anomalous figure by some 
possible singularities of the man's life. 

His thick blond hair, ill cared-for, fell over his shoul- 
ders in the Dutch fashion, and its very disorder was in 
keeping with the general eccentricity of his person. 
His broad brow showed certain protuberances which 
Gall identifies with poetic genius. His clear and full 
blue eyes had the brusque vivacity which may be 
noticed in searchers for occult causes. The nose, 
probably perfect in early life, was now elongated, and 
the nostrils seemed to have graduall}^ opened wider 
from an involuntary tension of the olfactorj^ muscles. 
The cheek-bones were very prominent, which made the 



The Alkahest. 25 

cheeks themselves, already withered, seem more sunken • 
his mouth, full of sweetness, was squeezed in between 
the nose and a short chin, which projected sharply. 
The shape of the face, however, was long rather than 
oval, and the scientific doctrine which sees in ever}- 
human face a likeness to an animal would have found 
its confirmation in that of Balthazar Claiis, which bore a 
strong resemblance to a horse's head. The skin clunir 
closel}' to the bones, as though some inward fire were 
incessantly drying its juices. Sometimes, when he 
gazed into space, as if to see the realization of his 
hopes, it almost seemed as though the flames that 
devoured his soul were issuing from his nostrils. 

The inspired feelings that animate great men shone 
forth on the pale face furrowed with wrinkles, on the 
brow haggard with care like that of an old monarch, 
but above all they gleamed in the sparkling eye, whose 
fii-es were fed by chastity imposed by the tyranny of 
ideas and by the inward consecration of a great intel- 
lect. The cavernous eyes seemed to have sunk in their 
orbits through midnight vigils and the terrible reaction 
of hopes destroyed, yet ceaselessly reborn. The zealous 
fanaticism inspired by an art or a science was evident 
in this man ; it betrayed itself in the strange, persistent 
abstraction of his mind expressed by his dress and bear- 
ing, which were in keeping with the anomalous pecu- 
liarities of his person. 



26 The Alkahest. 

His large, hairy hands were dirty, and the nails, 
which were very long, had deep black lines at theii 
extremities. His shoes were not cleaned and the shoe- 
strings were missing. Of all that Flemish household, 
the master alone took the strange liberty of being slov- 
enly. His black cloth trousers were covered with 
stains, his waistcoat was unbuttoned, his cravat awry, 
his gi'eenish coat ripped at the seams, — completing an 
array of signs, great and small, which in any other man 
would have betokened a poverty begotten of vice, but 
which in Balthazar Claes was the negligence of genius. 

Vice and Genius too often produce the same effects ; 
and this misleads the common mind. What is genius 
but a long excess which squanders time and wealth and 
physical powers, and leads more rapidl}' to a hospital 
than the worst of passions? Men even seem to have 
more respect for vices than for genius, since to the lat- 
ter they refuse credit. The profits accruing from the 
hidden labors of the brain are so remote that the social 
world fears to square accounts with the man of learning 
in his lifetime, preferring to get rid of its obligations by 
not forgiving his misfortunes or his poverty. 

If, in spite of this inveterate forgetfulness of the 
present, Balthazar Claes had abandoned his mysteri- 
ous abstractions, if some sweet and companionable 
meaning had revisited that thoughtful countenance, if 
the fixed eyes had lost their rigid strain and shone with 



The Alkahest. 27 

feeling, if he had ever looked humanly about him and 
returned to the real Ufe of common things, it would 
indeed have been difficult not to do involuntary homage 
to the winning beauty of his face and the gracious soul 
that would then have shone from it. As it was, all 
who looked at him regretted that the man belonged no 
more to the world at large, and said to one another : 
" He must have been very handsome in his youth." A 
vulgar en-or ! Never was Balthazar Claes's appearance 
more poetic than at this moment. Lavater, had he seen 
him, would fain have studied that head so full of pa- 
tience, of Flemish loyalty, and pure morality, — where 
all was broad and noble, and passion seemed calm be- 
cause it was strong. 

The conduct of this man could not be otherwise than 
pure ; his word was sacred, his friendships seemed un- 
deviating, his self-devotedness complete : and yet the 
will to employ those qualities in patriotic service, for 
the world or for the family, was directed, fatally, else- 
where. This citizen, bound to guard the welfare of a 
household, to manage property, to guide his children 
towards a noble future, was living outside the line of 
his duty and his affections, in communion with an at- 
tendant spirit. A priest might have thought him in- 
spired by the word of God ; an artist would have hailed 
him as a great master ; an enthusiast would have taken 
him for a seer of the Swedenborgian faith. 



28 The Alkahest. 

At the present moment, the dilapidated, uncouth, 
and ruined clothes that he wore contrasted strangely 
with the graceful elegance of the woman who was sadly 
admiring him. Deformed persons who have intellect, 
or nobility of soul, show an exquisite taste in their ap- 
parel. Either they dress simply, convinced that their 
charm is wholly moral, or they make others forget their 
imperfections by an elegance of detail which diverts the 
e3'e and occupies the mind. Not onl}' did this woman 
possess a noble soul, but she loved Balthazar Claes 
with that instinct of the woman which gives a foretaste 
of the communion of angels. Brought up in one of the 
most illustrious families of Belgium, she would have 
learned good taste had she not possessed it ; and now, 
taught by the desire of constantly pleasing the man she 
loved, she knew how to clothe herself admirabl}', and 
without producing incongruity between her elegance and 
the defects of her conformation. The bust, however, 
was defective in the shoulders onl}-, one of which was 
noticeably much larger than the other. 

She looked out of the window into the court-yard, 
then towards the garden, as if to make sure she was 
alone with Balthazar, and presently said, in a gentle 
voice and with a look full of a Flemish woman's sub- 
missiveness, — for between these two love had long 
since driven out the pride of her Spanish nature : — 

" Balthazar, are you so very busy? this is the 



The Alkahest. 29 

thirty-third Sunday since you have been to mass or 
vespers." 

Claes did not answer; his wife bowed her head, 
clasped her hands, and waited: she knew that his 
silence meant neither contempt nor indifference, only a 
tyrannous preoccupation. Balthazar was one of those 
beings who preserve deep in their souls and after lon<^ 
years all their youthful delicacy of feeling ; he would 
have thought it criminal to wound by so much as a 
-word a woman weighed down by the sense of i)h\sical 
disfigurement. No man knew better than he that a 
look, a word, suffices to blot out years of happiness, 
and is the more cruel because it contrasts with the un- 
failing tenderness of the past : our nature leads us to 
suffer more from one discord in our happiness than 
pleasure coming in the midst of trouble can bring us 

joy- 
Presently Balthazar appeared to waken ; he looked 

quickly about him, and said, — 

" Vespers? Ah, 3"es ! the children are at vespers." 
He made a few steps forward, and looked into the 

garden, where magnificent tulips were growing on all 

sides ; then he suddenly stopped short as if brought up 

against a wall, and cried out, — 

"Why should they not combine within a given 

time?" 

" Is he going mad?" thought the wife, much terrified 



30 The Alkahest. 

To give greater interest to the present scene, which 
was called forth by the situation of their affairs, it is 
absolutely necessary to glance back at the past lives of 
Balthazar Claes and the granddaughter of the Duke of 
Casa-Real. 

Towards the year 1783, Monsieur Balthazar Claes- 
Molina de Nourho, then twenty-two years of age, was 
what is called in France a fine man. He came to finish 
his education in Paris, where he acquired excellent 
manners in the societj^ of Madame d'Egmont, Count 
Horn, the Prince of Aremberg, the Spanish ambassa- 
dor, Helvetius, and other Frenchmen originally from 
Belgium, or coming lately thence, whose birth or wealth 
won them admittance among the great seigneurs who 
at that time gave the tone to social life. Young Claes 
found several relations and friends ready to launch him 
into the great world at the very moment when that 
world was about to fall. Like other young men, he 
was at first more attracted by glory and science than 
by the vanities of life. He frequented the society of 
scientific men, particularly Lavoisier, who at that time 
was better known to the world for his enormous fortune 
as a. fermier- general than for his discoveries in chemis- 
tr}', — though later the great chemist was to eclipse the 
man of wealth. 

Balthazar grew enamoured of the science which La- 
voisier cultivated, and became his devoted disciple ; 



The AlkahesL 81 

but he was young, and handsome as Hclvcfms, and be- 
fore long the Parisian women taught him to distil wit 
and love exclusively-. Though he had studied chemis- 
try with such ardor that Lavoisier commended him, he 
deserted science and his master for those mistresses of 
fashion and good taste from whom young men take fin- 
ishing lessons in knowledge of life, and learn the usages 
of good society, which in Europe forms, as it were, one 
family. 

The intoxicating dream of social success lasted but a 
short time. Balthazar left Paris, weary of a hollow 
existence which suited neither his ardent soul nor his 
loving heart. Domestic life, so calm, so tender, which 
the very name of Flanders recalled to him, seemed far 
more fitted to his character and to the aspirations of 
his heart. No gilded Parisian salon had effaced from 
his mind the harmonies of the panelled parlor and the 
little garden where his happj^ childhood had slipped 
awa}'. A man must needs be without a home to re- 
main in Paris, — Paris, the city of cosmopolitans, of 
men who wed the world, and clasp her with the arms 
of Science, Art, or Power. 

The son of Flanders came back to Douai, Uke La 
Fontaine's pigeon to its nest ; he wept with joy as ho 
re-entered the town on the day of the Gayant proces- 
sion, — Gaj'ant, the superstitious luck of Douai, tlio 
glory of Flemish traditions, introduced there at the 



32 The Alkahest, 

time the Claes family had emigrated from Ghent. The 
death of Balthazar's father and mother had left the old 
mansion deserted, and the young man was occupied for 
a time in settling its affairs. His first grief over, he 
wished to marry ; he needed the domestic happiness 
whose every religious aspect had fastened upon his 
mind. He even followed the family custom of seeking 
a wife in Ghent, or at Bruges, or Antwerp ; but it hap- 
pened that no woman whom he met there suited him. 
Undoubtedly, he had certain peculiar ideas as to mar- 
riage ; from his youth he had been accused of never 
following the beaten track. 

One day, at the house of a relation in Ghent, he 
heard a j'oung lad}-, then li\nng in Brussels, spoken of 
in a manner which gave rise to a long discussion. Some 
said that the beauty of Mademoiselle de Temninck was 
destroj'ed by the imperfections of her figure ; others 
declared that she was perfect in spite of her defects. 
Balthazar's old cousin, at whose house the discussion 
took place, assured his guests that, handsome or not, 
she had a soul that would make him marry her were he 
a marrying man ; and he told how she had lately re- 
nounced her share of her parents' property to enable 
her brother to make a marriage worthy of his name ; 
thus preferring his happiness to her own, and sacrificing 
her fulure to his interests, — for it was not to be sup- 
posed that Mademoiselle de Temninck would marr}- late 



The Alkahest. 33 

m life and without property when, young and wealthy, 
she had met with no aspirant. 

A few days later, Balthazar Claes made the acquaint- 
ance of Mademoiselle de Temninck ; with whom he fell 
deeply in love. At first, Josephine de Temninck 
thought herself the object of a mere caprice, and re- 
fused to listen to Monsieur Claes ; but passion is con- 
tagious ; and to a poor girl who was lame and ill-made, 
the sense of inspiring love in a young and handsome 
man carries with it such strong seduction that she 
finally consented to allow him to woo her. 

It would need a volume to paint the love of a young 
girl humbly submissive to the verdict of a world that calls 
her plain, while she feels within her the irresistible charm 
which comes of sensibility and true feeling. It involves 
fierce jealous}' of happiness, freaks of cruel vengeance 
against some fancied rival who wins a glance, — emo- 
tions, terrors, unknown to the majority- of women, and 
which ought, therefore, to be more than indicated. 
The doubt, the dramatic doubt of love, is the key- 
note of this analysis, where cei-tain souls will find once 
more the lost, but unforgotten, poetry of their early 
struggles ; the passionate exaltations of the heart which 
the face must not betray ; the fear that we may not be 
understood, and the boundless joy of being so; the 
hesitations of the soul which recoils upon itself, and the 
magnetic propulsions which give to the eyes an infiui- 



34 The Alkahest. 

tude of shades ; the promptings to suicide caused by a 
word, dispelled by an intonation ; trembling glances 
which veil an inward daring ; sudden desires to speak 
and act that are paral^'zed by their own violence ; the 
secret eloquence of common phrases spoken in a quiver- 
ing voice ; the mysterious workings of that pristine 
modest}' of soul and that divine discernment which 
lead to hidden generosities, and give so exquisite a 
flavor to silent devotion ; in short, all the loveliness of 
young love, and the weaknesses of its power. 

Mademoiselle Josephine de Temninck was coquettish 
from nobility of soul. The sense of her obvious imper- 
fections made her as difficult to win as the handsomest 
of women. The fear of some day displeasing the eye 
roused her pride, destroyed her trustfulness, and gave 
her the courage to hide in the depths of her heart that 
dawning happiness which other women delight in mak- 
ing known by their manners, — wearing it proudly, like 
a coronet. The more love urged her towards Balthazar, 
the less she dared to express her feelings. The glance, 
the gesture, the question and answer as it were of a 
pretty woman, so flattering to the man she loves, would 
thej' not be in her case mere humiliating speculation ? 
A beautiful woman can be her natural self, — the world 
overlooks her little follies or her clumsiness ; whereas 
a single criticising glance checks the noblest expression 
on the lips of an ugly woman, adds to the ill-grace of 



The Alkahest. ge 

her gesture, gives timidity to her eyes and awkwardnosa 
to her whole bearing. She knows too well that to her 
alone the world condones no faults ; she is denied the 
right to repair them ; indeed, the chance to do so is 
never given. This necessity of being perfect and on 
her guard at every moment, must surely chill her facul- 
ties and numb their exercise? Such a woman can exist 
only in an atmosphere of angelic forbearance. AVhcre 
are the hearts from which forbearance comes with no 
alloy of bitter and stinging pity? 

These thoughts, to which the codes of social life had 
accustomed her, and the sort of consideration more 
wounding than insult shown to her by the world, — a 
consideration which increases a misfortune by makin^r 
it apparent, — oppressed Mademoiselle de Temninck 
with a constant sense of embarrassment, which drove 
back into her soul its happiest expression, and chilled 
and stiffened her attitudes, her speech, her looks. 
Loving and beloved, she dared to be eloquent or l)eaii- 
tiful only when alone. Unhappy and oppressed in the 
broad daylight of life, she might have been enchanting 
could she have expanded in the shadow. Often, to test 
the love thus offered to her, and at the risk of losing it, 
she refused to wear the draperies that concealed some 
portion of her defects, and her Spanish eyes grew en- 
trancing when the}- saw that Balthazar thought her 
beautiful as before. 



36 The Alkahest. 

Nevertheless, even so, distrust spoiled tlie rare mo- 
ments when she 3'ielded herself to happiness. She 
asked herself if Claes were not seeking a domestic 
slave, — one who would necessarilj^ keep the house? 
whether he had himself no secret imperfection which 
obliged him to be satisfied with a poor, deformed girl? 
Such perpetual misgivings gave a priceless value to the 
few short hours during which she trusted the sincerity 
and the permanence of a love which was to avenge her 
on the world. Sometimes she provoked hazardous 
discussions, and probed the inner consciousness of her 
lover b}' exaggerating her defects. At such times she 
often wrung from Balthazar truths that were far from 
flattering ; but she loved the embarrassment into which 
he fell when she had led him to sa^- that what he loved 
in a woman was a noble soul and the devotion which 
made each day of life a constant happiness ; and that 
after a few years of married life the handsomest ol 
women was no more to a husband than the ugliest. 
After gathering up what there was of truth in ail such 
paradoxes tending to reduce the value of beaut}', Bal- 
thazar would suddenly perceive the ungraciousness of 
his remarks, and show the goodness of his heart by 
the delicate transitions of thought with which he proved 
to Mademoiselle de Temninck that she was perfect in 
his eyes. 

The spirit of devotion which, it may be, is the crown 



The Alkahest. 37 

of love in a woman, was not lacking in this youu«y (r\x\^ 
who had always despaired of being loved ; at first, the 
prospect of a struggle in which feeling and sentiment 
would triumph over actual beauty tempted her ; then, 
she fancied a grandeur in giving herself to a man in 
whose love she did not believe ; finally, she was forced 
to admit that happiness, however short its duration 
might be, was too precious to resign. 

Such hesitations, such struggles, giving the charm 
and the unexpectedness of passion to this noble crea- 
ture, inspu-ed Balthazar with a love that was well-nigh 
chivaliic 



38 The Alkahest. 



III. 



The marriage took place at the beginning of the 
year 1795. Husband and wife came to Douai that the 
first days of their union might be spent in the patriar- 
chal house of the Claes, — the treasures of which were 
increased by those of Mademoiselle de Temninck, who 
brought with her several fine pictures of Murillo and 
Velasquez, the diamonds of her mother, and the mag- 
nificent wedding-gifts, made to her by her brother, the 
Duke of Casa-Real. 

Few women were ever happier than Madame Claes. 
Her happiness lasted for fifteen years without a cloud, 
diffusing itself like a vivid light into every nook and 
detail of her life. Most men have inequalities of 
character which produce discord, and deprive their 
households of the harmony which is the ideal of a 
home ; the majorit}^ are blemished with some littleness 
or meanness, and meanness of axiy kind begets bicker- 
ing. One man is honorable and diligent, but hard and 
crabbed ; another kindl}^, but obstinate ; this one loves 
his wife, yet his will is arbitraiy and uncertain ; that 
other, preoccupied by ambition, Days off his affections 



The Alkahest. 39 

as he would a debt, bestows the luxuries of wealth but 
deprives the daily life of happiness, — in short, the aver- 
age man of social life is essentially incomplete, without 
being signally to blame. Men of talent are as variable 
as barometers ; genius alone is intrinsically good. 

For this reason unalloyed happiness is found at the 
two extremes of the moral scale. The good-natured 
fool and the man of genius alone are capable — the one 
through weakness, the other by strength — of that 
equanimity of temper, that unvarjing gentleness, which 
soften the asperities of daily life. In the one, it is in- 
difference or stohdity ; in the other, indulgence and a 
portion of the divine thought of which he is the inter- 
preter, and which needs to be consistent alike in princi- 
ple and application. Both natures are equally simple ; 
but in one there is vacancy, in the other depth. This 
is why clever women are disposed to take dull men as 
the small change for gi-eat ones. 

Balthazar Claes carried his greatness into the lesser 
things of life. He delighted in considering conjugal 
love as a magnificent work ; and like all men of loft}' 
aims who can bear nothing imperfect, he wished to 
develop all its beauties. His powers of mind enlivened 
the calm of happiness, his noble nature marked his 
attentions with the charm of grace. Though he shared 
the philosophical tenets of the eighteenth century, he 
installed a chaplain in his home until 1801 (in spite of 



40 The Alkahest. 

the risk he ran from the revohitionary decrees), so that 
he might not thwart the Spanish fanaticism which his 
wife had sucked in with her mother's milk : later, when 
public worship was restored in France, he accompanied 
her to mass ever}'^ Sunday. His passion never ceased 
to be that of a lover. The protecting power, which 
women like so much, was never exercised by this hus- 
band, lest to that wife it might seem pity. He ti'eated 
her with exquisite flattery as an equal, and sometimes 
mutinied against her, as men will, as though to brave 
the supremacy of a pretty woman. His lips wore a 
smile of happiness, his speech was ever tender; he 
loved his Josephine for herself and for himself, with an 
ardor that crowned with perpetual praise the qualities 
and the loveliness of a wife. 

Fidelity, often the result of social principle, religious 
duty, or self-interest on the part of a husband, was in 
this case involuntar}', and not without the sweet flat- 
teries of the spring-time of love. Duty was the only 
marriage obligation unknown to these lovers, whose 
love was equal ; for Balthazar Claes found the com- 
plete and lasting realization of his hopes in Mademoi- 
selle de Temninck ; his heart was satisfied but not 
wearied, the man within him was ever happy. 

Not only did the daughter of Casa-Real derive from 
her Spanish blood the intuition of that science which 
varies pleasure and makes it infinite, but she possessed 



The Alkahest. 41 

the spirit of unbounded self-devotion, which is the 
genius of her sex as gi-ace is that of beauty. Her love 
was a blind fanaticism which, at a notl, would have 
sent her joyously to her death. Balthazar's own deli- 
cacy had exalted the generous emotions of his wife, 
and inspired her with an imperious need of giving more 
than she received. This mutual exchange of happiness 
which each lavished upon the other, put the mainspring 
of her life \dsibly outside of her personality, and lilled 
her words, her looks, her actions, with an ever-growing 
love. Gratitude fertilized and varied the life of each 
heart ; and the certaint}' of being all in all to one 
another excluded the paltry things of existence, while 
it magnified the smallest accessories. 

The deformed woman whom her husband thinks 
straight, the lame woman whom he would not have oth- 
erwise, the old woman who seems ever young — are 
they not the happiest creatures of the feminine world ? 
Can human passion go beyond it? The glory of a 
woman is to be adored for a defect. To forget that a 
lame woman does not walk straight may be the glamour 
of a moment, but to love her because she is lame is the 
deification of her defects. In the gospel of woman- 
hood it is written: "Blessed are the imperfect, for 
theirs is the kingdom of Love." If this be so, surely 
beauty is a misfortune ; that fugitive flower counts for 
too much in the feeling that a woman inspires ; often 



42 The Alkahest. 

she is loved for her beauty as another is married for 
her money. But the love inspired or bestowed by a 
woman disinherited of the frail advantages pursued by 
the sons of Adam, is true love, the mysterious passion, 
the ardent embrace of souls, a sentiment for which the 
da}'' of disenchantment never comes. That woman has 
charms unknown to the world, from whose jurisdiction 
she withdraws herself : she is beautiful with a meaning ; 
her glory lies in making her imperfections forgotten, 
and thus she constantly succeeds in doing so. 

The celebrated attachments of history were nearly all 
inspired by women in whom the vulgar mind would 
have found defects, — Cleopatra, Jeanne de Naples, 
Diane de Poitiers, Mademoiselle de la Valliere, Madame 
de Pompadour ; in fact, the majority of the women whom 
love has rendered famous were not without infirmities 
and imperfections, while the greater number of those 
whose beauty is cited as perfect came to some tragic 
end of love. 

This apparent singularity must have a cause. It 
may be that man lives more by sentiment than by 
sense ; perhaps the physical charm of beaut}' is limited, 
while the moral charm of a woman without beauty is 
infinite. Is not this the moral of the fable on which 
the Arabian Nights are based? An ugly wife of 
Henry VIII. might have defied the axe, and subdued 
to herself the inconstancy of her master. 



The Alkahest. 43 

Bv a strange chance, not inexplicable, however, in a 
girl of Spanish origin, Madame Claiis was uneducated. 
She knew how to read and write, but up to the a^e of 
twent}-, at which time her parents withdrew her from a 
convent, she had read none but ascetic books. Ou her 
first entrance into the world, she was eager for pleasure 
and learned onl}- the flimsy art of dress ; she was, more- 
over, so deeply conscious of her ignorance that she 
•dared not join in conversation ; for which reason she 
was supposed to have little mind. Yet, the mystical 
education of a convent had one good result ; it left her 
feelings in full force and her natural powers of mind 
uninjured. Stupid and plain as an heiress in the eyes 
of the world, she became intellectual and beautiful to 
her husband. During the first years of their married 
life, Balthazar endeavored to give her at least the 
knowledge that she needed to appear to advantage iu 
good society' : but he was doubtless too late, she had 
no memory but that of the heart Josephine never 
forgot anj-thiug that Claes told her relathig to them- 
selves ; she remembered the most trifling circumstances 
■of their happy Ufe ; but of her evening studies nothing 
remained to her on the morrow. 

This ignorance might have caused much discord 
between husband and wife, but Madame Claes's under- 
standing of the passion of love was so simple and 
ingenuous, she loved her husband so religiously, so 



44 The Alkahest. 

sacredly, and the thought of preserving her happiness 
made her so adroit, that she managed always to seem 
to understand him, and it was seldom indeed that her 
ignorance was evident. Moreover, when two persons 
love one another so well that each day seems for them 
the beginning of their passion, phenomena arise out of 
this teeming happiness which change all the conditions 
of life. It resembles childhood, careless of all that is 
not laughter, joy, and merriment. Then, when life is 
in full activity, when its hearths glow, man lets the fire 
burn without thought or discussion, without consider- 
ing either the means or the end. 

No daughter of Eve ever more \x\Ay understood the 
calling of a wife than Madame Claes. She had all the 
submission of a Flemish woman, but her Spanish pride 
gave it a higher flavor. Her bearing was imposing; 
she knew how to command respect b}' a look which 
expressed her sense of birth and dignity : but she 
trembled before Claes ; she held him so high, so near 
to God, carrying to him every act of her life, every 
thought of her heart, that her love was not without a 
certain respectful fear which made it keener. She 
proudly assumed all the habits of a Flemish bourgeoise, 
and put her self-love into making the home life liberally 
happy, — preserving every detail of the house in scrupu- 
lous cleanliness, possessing nothing that did not serve 
the purposes of true comfort, supplying her table with 



The Alkahest. 45 

the choicest food, and putting everything within those 
walls into harmon}- with the life of her heart. 

The pair had two sons and two daughters. The 
eldest, Marguerite, was born in 1796. Tiie last child 
was a boy, now three years old, named Jean-Balthazar. 
The maternal sentiment in Madame Claes was almost 
equal to her love for her husband ; and there rose in 
her soul, especially during the last days of her Ufe, a 
terrible struggle between those nearly balanced feel- 
ings, of which the one became, as it were, an enemy of 
the other. The tears and the terror that marked her 
face at the moment when this tale of a domestic drama 
then lowering over the quiet house begins, were caused 
by the fear of having sacrificed her children to her 
husband. 

In 1805, Madame Claes's brother died without chil- 
dren. The Spanish law does not allow a sister to suc- 
ceed to territorial possessions, which follow the title ; 
but the duke had left her in his will about sixty thou- 
sand ducats, and this sum the heirs of the collateral 
branch did not seek to retain. Though the feeling 
which united her to Balthazar Claes was such that no 
thought of personal interest could ever sully it, Josi^phino 
felt a certain pleasure in possessing a fortune equal to 
that of her husband, and was happy in giving some- 
thing to one who had so nobly given everything to her. 
Thus, a mere chance turned a marriage which worldly 



46 The Alkahest. 

minds had declared foolish, into an excellent alliance, 
seen from the standpoint of material interests. The 
use to which this sum of money should be put became, 
however, somewhat diflScult to determine. 

The House of Claes was so richly suppUed with fur- 
niture, pictures, and objects of art of priceless value, 
that it was difficult to add anything worth}' of what 
was already there. The tastes of the famil}^ through 
long periods of time had accumulated these treasui'es. 
One generation followed the quest of noble pictures, 
leaving behind it the necessity of completing a collec- 
tion still unfinished ; and thus the taste became he- 
reditary in the family. The hundred pictures which 
adorned the gallery leading from the family building to 
the reception-rooms on the first floor of the front house, 
as well as some fifty others placed about the salons, 
were the pi'oduct of the patient researches of three 
centuries. Among them were choice specimens of 
Rubens, Ruj-sdael, Vandj'ke, Terburg, Gerard Dow, 
Teniers, Mieris, Paul Potter, Wouvermans, Rembrandt, 
Hobbema, Cranach, and Holbein. French and Italian 
pictures were in a minority, but all were authentic and 
masterly. 

Another generation had fancied Chinese and Japan- 
ese porcelains : this Claes was eager after rare furni- 
ture, that one for silver-ware ; in fact, each and all had 
their mania, their passion, — a trait which belongs in 



The Alkahest. 47 

a striking degree to the Flemish character. The father 
of Balthazar, a last relic of the once famous Dutch 
society, left behind him the finest known collecUou of 
tulips. 

Besides these hereditary riches, which represented an 
enormous capital, and were the choice ornament of the 
venerable house, — a house that was simple as a shell 
outside but, like a shell, adorned within by pearls of 
price and glowing with rich color, — Balthazar C"hic3 
possessed a country-house on the plain of Orchies, not 
far from Douai. Instead of basing his expenses, as 
Frenchmen do, upon his revenues, he followed the old 
Dutch custom of spending only a fourth of his income. 
Twelve hundred ducats a year put his costs of living 
at a level with those of the richest men of the place. 
The promulgation of the Civil Code proved the wisdom 
of this course. Compelling, as it did, the equal divis- 
ion of property, the Title of Succession would some 
da}' leave each child with limited means, and disperse 
the treasures of the Claes collection. Balthazar, there- 
fore, in concert with Madame Claes, invested liis 
wife's property so as to secure to each child a fortune 
eventually equal to his own. The house of Claiis still 
maintained its moderate scale of living, and bought 
woodlands somewhat the worse for the wars that had 
laid waste the country, but which in ten years' time, if 
well-preserved, would return an enormous value. 



48 The Alkahest, 

The upper ranks of society in Douai, which Mon- 
sieur Claes frequented, appreciated so justly the noble 
character and qualities of his wife that, b}'- tacit con- 
sent she was released from those social duties to which 
the provinces cling so tenaciously. During the winter 
season, when she lived in town, she seldom went into 
society ; society came to her. She received every 
Weduesda}-, and gave three grand dinners every 
month. Her friends felt that she was more at ease in 
her own house ; where, indeed, her passion for her 
husband and the care she bestowed on the education 
of her children tended to keep her. 

Such had been, up to the year 1809, the general 
course of this household, which had nothing in common 
with the ordinary run of conventional ideas, though 
the outward life of these two persons, secretly full of 
love and joy, was like that of other people. Balthazar 
Claes's passion for his wife, which she had known how 
to perpetuate, seemed, to use his own expression, to 
spend its inborn vigor and fidelitj' on the cultivation of 
happiness, which was far better than the cultivation of 
tulips (though to that he had alwa^'S had a leaning), 
and dispensed him from the duty of following a mania 
like his ancestors. 

At the close of this year, the mind and the man- 
ners of Balthazar Claes underwent a fatal change, — a 
change which began so gradually that at first Madame 



The Alkahest. 49 

Claes did not think it necessary to inquire the cause. 
One night her husband went to bed with a nuud so 
preoccupied that she felt it incumbent on her to respect 
his mood. Her womanly delicacy and her submissive 
habits always led her to wait for Balthazar's confi- 
dence ; which, indeed, was assured to her by so 
constant an affection that she had never hati the 
slightest opening for jealousy. Though certain of ob- 
taining an answer whenever she should make the 
inquiry, she still retained enough of the earlier impres- 
sions of her life to dread a refusal. Besides, the moral 
malady of her husband had its phases, and only came 
by slow degrees to the intolerable point at which it 
destroyed the happiness of the family. 

However occupied Balthazar Claes might be, he 
continued for several months cheerful, affectionate, 
and ready to talk ; the change in his character showed 
itself only by frequent periods of absent-mindedness. 
Madame Claes long hoped to hear from her husband 
himself the nature of the secret employment in which 
he was engaged ; perhaps, she thought, he would reveal 
it when it developed some useful result ; many men are 
led by pride to conceal the nature of their efforts, and 
only make them known at the moment of success. 
When the day of triumph came, surely domestic happi- 
ness would return, more vivid than ever when Balthazar 
became aware of this chasm in the life of love, which 



50 The Alkahest. 

his heart would surely disavow. Josephine knew her 
husband well enough to be certain that he would never 
forgive himself for having made his Pepita less than 
happy during several months. 

She kept silence therefore, and felt a sort of joy in 
thus suffering by him for him : her passion had a tinge 
of that Spanish piety which allows no separation be- 
tween religion and love, and believes in no sentiment 
without suffering. She waited for the return of her hus- 
band's affection, saying daily to herself, "To-morrow 
it may come," — treating her happiness as though it 
were an absent friend. 

During this stage of her secret distress, she conceived 
her last child. Horrible crisis, which revealed a future 
of anguish ! In the midst of her husband's abstrac- 
tions love showed itself on this occasion an abstraction 
even greater than the rest. Her woman's pride, hurt 
for the first time, made her sound the depths of the 
unknown abj'ss which separated her from the Claes of 
earlier days. From that time Balthazar's condition 
grew rapidly worse. The man formerly so wrapped up 
in his domestic happiness, who played for hours with 
his children on the parlor carpet or round the garden 
paths, who seemed able to exist only in the light of his 
Pepita's dark eyes, did not even perceive her pregnane}', 
seldom shared the family life, and even forgot his 
own. 



The Alkahest. 5j 

The longer Madame Claes postponed inquiring into 
the cause of his preoccupation the less she dared to do 
so. At the very idea, her blood ran cold and her voice 
grew faint. At last the thought occurred to her that 
she had ceased to please her husband, and then indeed 
she was seriously alarmed. That fear now filled her 
mind, drove her to despair, then to feverish excitement, 
and became the text of many an hour of melnncholv 
revery. She defended Balthazar at her own expense, 
calling herself old and ugly ; then she imagined a gen- 
erous though humiliating consideration for her in this 
secret occupation by which he secured to her a negative 
fidelity ; and she resolved to give him back his indepen- 
dence by allowing one of those unspoken divorces 
which make the happiness of man}- a marriage. 

Before bidding farewell to conjugal life, Madame 
Claes made some attempt to read her husband's heart, 
and found it closed. Little by little, she saw him 
become indifferent to all that he had formerl}- loved ; 
he neglected his tulips, he cared no longer for his 
children. There could be no doubt that he was given 
over to some passion that was not of the heart, but 
which, to a woman's mind, is not less withering. His 
love was dormant, not lost : this might be a consola- 
tion, but the misfortune remained the same. 

The continuance of such a state of things is ex- 
plained by one word, — hope, the secret of all con- 



52 The Alkahest. 

jugal situations. It so happened that whenever the 
poor woman reached a depth of despair which gave her 
courage to question her husband, she met with a few 
brief moments of happiness when she was able to feel 
that if Balthazar were indeed in the clutch of some 
devilish power, he was permitted, sometimes at least, to 
return to himself. At such moments, when her heaven 
brightened, she was too eager to enjoy its happiness to 
trouble him with importunate questions : later, when 
she endeavored to speak to him, he would suddenly 
escape, leave her abruptly, or drop into the gulf of 
meditation from which no word of hers could drag 
him. 

Before long the reaction of the moral upon the phys- 
ical condition began its ravages, — at first imperceptibly, 
except to the eyes of a loving woman following the se- 
cret thought of a husband through all its manifesta- 
tions. Often she could scarcely restrain her tears when 
she saw him, after dinner, sink into an armchair bj' the 
corner of the fireplace, and remain there, gloom}' and 
abstracted. She noted with terror the slow changes 
which deteriorated that face, once, to her e^'es, sublime 
through love : the life of the soul was retreating from 
it ; the structure remained, but the spirit was gone. 
Sometimes the eyes were glassy, and seemed as if they 
had turned their gaze and were looking inward. When 
the children had gone to bed, and the silence and solitude 



The Alkahest. 53 

oppressed her, Pepita would say, " My friend, arc yoa 
ill ? " and Balthazar would make no answer ; or if ho 
answered, he would come to himself with a quiver, like 
a man snatched suddenly from sleep, and utter a " No " 
so harsh and grating that it fell like a stone on the 
palpitating heart of his wife. 

Though she tried to hide this strange state of things 
from her friends, Madame Claes was obliged sometimes 
to allude to it. The social world of Douai, in accord- 
ance with the custom of provincial towns, had made 
Balthazar's aberrations a topic of conversation, and 
man}' persons were aware of certain details that were 
still unknown to Madame Claes. Disregarding the ret- 
icence which politeness demanded, a few friends ex- 
pressed to her so much anxiety on the subject that 
she found herself compelled to defend her husband's 
peculiarities. 

"■ Monsieur Claes," she said, " has undertaken a 
work which wholly absorbs him ; its success will even- 
tually redound not only to the honor of the family but 
to that of his country." 

This mysterious explanation was too flattering to the 
ambition of a town whose local patriotism and desire 
for glory exceed those of other places, not to be readily 
accepted, and it produced on all minds a reaction in 
favor of Balthazar, 

The supposition of his wife was, to a certain ext<;nt. 



64 The Alkahest. 

well-founded. Several artificers of various trades had 
long been at work in the garret of the front house, 
where Balthazar went early every morning. After 
remaining, at first, for several hours, an absence to 
which his wife and household grew gradually accus- 
tomed, he ended by being there all da}^ But — unex- 
pected shock ! — Madame Claes learned through the 
humiliating medium of some women friends, who 
showed surprise at her ignorance, that her husband 
constantl}" imported instruments of physical science, 
valuable materials, books, machiner}^ etc., from Paris, 
and was on the highroad to ruin in search of the Phi- 
losophers' Stone. She ought, so her kind friends ad- 
ded, to think of her children, and her own future; it 
was criminal not to use her influence to draw Monsieur 
Claes from the fatal path on which he had entered. 

Though Madame Claes, with the tone and manner of 
a great lady, silenced these absurd speeches, she was 
inwardl}' terrified in spite of her apparent confidence, 
and she resolved to break through her present system 
of silence and resignation. She brought about one of 
those little scenes in which husband and wife are on an 
equal footing ; less timid at such a moment, she dared 
to ask Balthazar the reason for his change, the mo- 
tive of his constant seclusion. The Flemish husband 
frowned, and replied : — 

" My dear, you could not understand it." 



The Alkahest, 55 

Soon after, however, Josephine insisted on being told 
the secret, gently complaining that she was not allowed 
to share all the thoughts of one whose hfe she shared. 

"Very well, since it interests you so much," said 
Balthazar, taking his wife upon his knee and caressing 
her black hair, "I will tell 3-ou that I have returneil 
to the study of chemistry, and I am the happiest man 
on earth." 



56 The Alkahest. 



IV. 



Two years after the winter when Monsieur Claes 
returned to chemistry, the aspect of his house was 
changed. Whether it were that society was affronted b}' 
his perpetual absent-mindedness and chose to think it- 
self in the way, or that Madame Claes's secret anxieties 
made her less agreeable than before, certain it is that 
she no longer saw any but her intimate friends. Bal- 
thazar went nowhere, shut himself up in his laboratory' 
all day, sometimes stayed there all night, and onh' ap- 
peared in the bosom of his family at dinner-time. 

After the second year he no longer passed the sum- 
mer at his country-house, and his wife was unwilling 
to live there alone. Sometimes he went to walk and 
did not return till the following day, leaving Madame 
Claes a prey to mortal anxiety during the night. 
After causing a fruitless search for him through the 
town, whose gates, like those of other fortified places, 
were closed at night, it was impossible to send into the 
country, and the unhappy woman could only wait and 
suffer till morning. Balthazar, who had forgotten the 
hour at which the gates closed, would come tranquilly 



The Alkahest. 57 

home the next day, quite unmindful of the tortures his 
absence had inflicted on his famil}- ; and the happiness 
of getting him back proved as dangerous an excitement 
of feeling to his wife as her fears of the preceding 
night. She kept silence and dared not question him, 
for when she did so on the occasion of his first absence, 
he answered with an air of surprise : — 

" WeU, what of it ? Can I not take a walk ? " 

Passions never deceive. Madame Claes's anxieties 
corroborated the rumors she had taken so much pains 
to denj'. The experience of her j'outh had taught her 
to understand the polite pit}' of the world. Resolved 
not to undergo it a second time, she withdrew more 
and more into the privacy of her own house, now de- 
serted by societ}' and even by her nearest friends. 

Among these many causes of distress, the negligence 
and disorder of Balthazar's dress, so degrading to a man 
of his station, was not the least bitter to a woman ac- 
customed to the exquisite nicety of Flemish life. At 
first Josephine endeavored, in concert with Balthazar's 
valet, Lemulquinier, to repair the daily devastation of 
his clothing, but even that she was soon forced to give 
up. The ver}' da}- when Balthazar, unaware of the sub- 
stitution, put on new clothes in place of those that were 
stained, torn, or full of holes, he made rags of them. 

The poor wife, whose perfect happiness had lasted 
fifteen years, during which time her jealousy had never 



68 The Alkahest. 

once been roused, was apparently and suddenly nothing 
in the heart where she had lately reigned. Spanish by 
race, the feelings of a Spanish woman rose within her 
when she discovered her rival in a Science that allured 
her husband from her : torments of jealousy prej-ed 
upon her heart and renewed her love. What could she 
do against Science? Should she combat that tjTan- 
nous, unj'ielding, growing power? Could she kill an 
invisible rival? Could a woman, limited hy nature, 
contend with an Idea whose delights are infinite, whose 
attractions are ever new ? How make head against the 
fascination of ideas that spring the fresher and the 
lovelier out of difficulty, and entice a man so far from 
this world that he forgets even his dearest loves ? 

At last one day, in spite of Balthazar's strict orders, 
Madame Claes resolved to follow him, to shut herself 
up in the garret where his life was spent, and struggle 
hand to hand against her rival by sharing her hus- 
band's labors during the long hours he gave to that 
terrible mistress. She determined to slip secretly into 
the mysterious laboratory of seduction, and obtain the 
right to be there always. Lemulquinier alone had that 
right, and she meant to share it with him ; but to pre- 
vent his witnessing the contention with her husband 
which she feared at the outset, she waited for an oppor- 
tunity when the valet should be out of the way. For a 
while she studied the goings and comings of the man 



The Alkahest. 59 

with angry impatience ; did he not know that which was 
denied to her— all that her husband hid from bcr, all 
that she dared not inquire into ? Even a servant was 
preferred to a wife ! 

The daj^ came ; she approached the place, trembling, 
yet almost happy. For the first time in her life she 
encountered Balthazar's anger. She had hardly opened 
the door before he sprang upon her, seized her, threw 
her roughly on the staircase, so that she narrowly 
escaped rolling to the bottom. 

"God be praised! you are still alive!" he cried, 
raising her. 

A glass vessel had broken into fragments over Ma- 
dame Claes, who saw her husband standing by her, pale, 
terrified, and almost livid. 

" My dear, I forbade you to come here," he said, sit- 
ting down on the stairs, as though prostrated. " The 
saints have saved j^our life ! By what chance was it 
that my ej'es were on the door when 30U opened it? 
"We have just escaped death." 

" Then I might have been happy ! " she exclaimed. 

" My experiment has failed," continued Balthazar. 
" You alone could I forgive for that terrible disappoint- 
ment. I was about to decompose nitrogen. Go back 
to your own affairs." 

Balthazar re-entered the laboratory and closed the 
door. 



60 The Alkahest. 

" Decompose nitrogen ! " said the poor woman as 
she re-entered her chamber, and burst into tears. 

The phrase was unintelligible to her. Men, trained 
b}' education to have a general conception of everything, 
have no idea how distressing it is for a woman to be 
unable to comprehend the thought of the man she loves. 
More forbearing than we, these divine creatures do not 
let us know when the language of then- souls is not 
understood by us ; they shrink from letting us feel the 
superiority of their feelings, and hide their pain as 
gladly as they silence their wishes : but, having higher 
ambitions in love than men, they desire to wed not only 
the heart of a husband, but his mind. 

To Madame Claes the sense of knowing nothing of a 
science which absorbed her husband filled her with a 
vexation as keen as the beaut}' of a rival might have 
caused. The struggle of woman against woman gives 
to her who loves the most the advantage of loving 
best ; but a mortification like this onl}" proved Madame 
Claes's powerlessness and humiliated the feelings by 
which she lived. She was ignorant ; and she had 
reached a point where her ignorance parted her from 
her husband. Worse than all, last and keenest torture, 
he was risking his Ufe, he was often in danger — near 
her, 3"et far away, and she might not share, nor even 
know, his peril. Her position became, like hell, a 
moral prison from which there was no issue, in which 



The Alkahest. 61 

there was no hope. Madame Claes resolved to know 
at least the outward attractions of this fatal science, 
and she began secretly to stud}- chemistry in the 
books. From this time the family became, as it were, 
cloistered. 

Such were the successive changes brought by this 
du-e misfortune upon the family of Claes, before it 
reached the species of atrophy in which we find it at 
the moment when this history- begins. 

The situation grew daily more complicated. Like all 
passionate women, Madame Claes was disiuterestod. 
Those who trul}' love know that considerations of 
mone^^ count for little in matters of feeling and are 
reluctantly associated with them. Nevertheless, Jose- 
phine did not hear without distress that her husband 
had borrowed three hundred thousand francs upon his 
property. The apparent authenticity of the transac- 
tion, the rumors and conjectures spread through the 
town, forced Madame Claes, naturall}- much alarmed, 
to question her husband's notary and, disregarding 
her pride, to reveal to him her secret anxieties or let 
him guess them, and even ask her the humiliating 
question, — 

" How is it that Monsieur Claes has not told you of 
this?" 

Happily, the notary was almost a relation, — in this 
wise : The grandfather of Monsieur Claes had married 



62 The Alkahest 

a Pierquin of Antwerp, of the same family as the 
Pierquins of Douai. Since the marriage the latter, 
though strangers to the Claes, claimed them as cousins. 
Monsieur Pierquin, a young man twenty-six years of 
age, who had just succeeded to his father's practice, 
was the only person who now had access to the House 
of Claes. 

Madame Balthazar had lived for several months in 
such complete solitude that the notary was obliged not 
only to confirm the rumor of the disasters, but to give 
her further particulars, which were now well known 
throughout the town. He told her it was probable that 
her husband owed considerable sums of money to the 
house which furnished him with chemicals. That house, 
after making inquiries as to the fortune and credit of 
Monsieur Claes, accepted all his orders and sent the 
supplies without hesitation, notwithstanding the heavy 
sums of monej' which became due. Madame Claes re- 
quested Pierquin to obtain the bill for all the chemicals 
that had been furnished to her husband. 

Two months later, Messieurs Protez and Chiffre^^lle, 
manufacturers of chemical products, sent in a schedule 
of accounts rendered, which amounted to over one hun- 
dred thousand francs. Madame Claes and Pierquin 
studied the document with an ever-increasing surprise. 
Though some articles, entered in commercial and sci- 
entific terms, were unintelligible to them, they were 



The Alkahest. $3 

frightened to see entries of precious metals and dia- 
monds of all kinds, though in small quantities. The lar^e 
sum total of the debt was explained b}- the multiplicity 
of articles, b^- the precautions needed in transixjrt- 
iug some of them, more especiaUj- valuable matliinorv, 
by the exorbitant price of certain rare chemicals, and 
finall}' by the cost of instruments made to order after 
the designs of Monsieur Claes himself. 

The notary had made inquiries, in his client's inter- 
est, as to Messieurs Protez and Chiffreville, and found 
that theu- known integrity was sufficient guarantee as 
to the honesty of their operations with Monsieur Claiis, 
to whom, moreover, they frequently sent information of 
results obtained by chemists in Paris, for the purpose 
of sparing him expense. Madame Claes begged the 
notary to keep the nature of these purchases from the 
knowledge of the people of Douai, lest they should de- 
clare the whole thing a mania ; but Pierquin replied 
that he had akeady delayed to the ver}' last moment 
the notarial deeds which the importance of the sura 
borrowed necessitated, in order not to lessen the re- 
spect in which Monsieur Claes was held. He then 
revealed the full extent of the evil, telling her plaiuly 
that if she could not find means to prevent her hus- 
band from thus madl}^ making way with his property, in 
six months the patrimonial fortune of the Claes would 
be mortgaged to its full value. As for himself, he said, 



64 The Alkahest. 

the remonstrances he had alread}^ made to his cousin, 
with all the consideration due to a man so justly re- 
spected, had been wholly unavailing. Balthazar had 
replied, once for all, that he was working for the fame 
and the fortune of his family. 

Thus, to the tortures of the heart which Madame 
Claes had borne for two years — one following the other 
with cumulative suffering — was now added a dreadful 
and ceaseless fear which made the future terrifying. 
Women have presentiments whose accuracy is often mar- 
vellous. Why do they fear so much more than the}- hope 
in matters that concern the interests of this life ? Why 
is their faith given only to religious ideas of a future ex- 
istence ? Why do they so ably foresee the catastrophes 
of fortune and the crises of fate ? Perhaps the sentiment 
which unites them to the men they love gives them a 
sense by which they weigh force, measure faculties, 
understand tastes, passions, vices, virtues. The per- 
petual stud}' of these causes in the midst of which they 
live gives them, no doubt, the fatal power of foreseeing 
effects in all possible relations of earthly life. What they 
see of the present enables them to judge of the future 
with an intuitive ability explained by the perfection of 
their nervous system, which allows them to seize the 
lightest indications of thought and feeling. Their whole 
being vibrates in communion with great moral convul- 
sions. Either they feel, or they see. 



The Alkahest. 85 

Now, although separated from her husband for over 
two years, Madame Claiis foresaw the loss of their prop- 
erty'. She full}- understood the deliberate ardor, the well- 
considered, inalterable steadfastness of Balthazar ; if it 
were indeed true that he was seeking to make gold, he 
was capable of throwing his last crust into the crucible 
with absolute indifference. But what was he reall}- seek- 
ing? Up to this time maternal fecHng and conjugal 
love had been so mingled in the heart of this woman 
that the children, equall}- beloved by husband and wife, 
had never come between them. Suddenly she found 
herself at times more mother than wife, though hitherto 
she had been more wife than mother. However ready 
she had been to sacrifice her fortune and even her chil- 
dren to the man who had chosen her, loved her, adored 
her, and to whom she was still the only woman in the 
world, the remorse she felt for the weakness of her ma- 
ternal love threw her into terrible alternations of feel- 
ing. As a wife, she suffered in heart ; as a mother, 
through her children ; as a Christian, for all. 

She kept silence, and hid the cruel struggle in her 
soul. Her husband, sole arbiter of the family fate, was 
the master by whose wiU it must be guided ; he was re- 
sponsible to God only. Besides, could she reproach 
him for the use he now made of his fortune, after the 
disinterestedness he had shown to her for many happy 

years? Was she to judge his purposes? And yet her 

5 



66 The Alkahest. 

conscience, in keeping with the spirit of the law, told 
her that parents were the depositaries and guardians of 
property, and possessed no right to alienate the material 
welfare of the children. To escape replying to such 
stern questions she preferred to shut her eyes, like one 
who refuses to see the abj'ss into whose depths he 
knows he is about to fall. 

For more than six months her husband had given her 
no money for the household expenses. She sold secret- 
ly, in Paris, the handsome diamond ornaments her 
brother had given her on her marriage, and placed 
the famil}' on a footing of the strictest econom}'. She 
sent away the governess of her children, and even the 
nurse of little Jean. Formerly the luxury of carriages 
and horses was unknown among the burgher families, 
so simple were they in their habits, so proud in their 
feelings ; no provision for that modern innovation had 
therefore been made at the House of Claes, and Bal- 
thazar was obliged to have his stable and coachhouse 
in a building opposite to his own house : his present 
occupations allowed him no time to superintend that 
portion of his establishment, which belongs exclusively 
to men. Madame Claes suppressed the whole expense 
of equipages and servants, which her present isolation 
from the world rendered unnecessary, and she did so 
without pretending to conceal the retrenchment under 
any pretext. So far, facts had contradicted her 



The Alkahest. 67 

assertions, and silence for the future was more Wcom- 
ing : indeed tlie change in the family mode of living 
called for no explanation in a countrj- where, as in 
Flanders, any one who lives up to his income is con- 
sidered a madman. 

And yet, as her eldest daughter, Marguerite, ap- 
proached her sixteenth birthday, Madame Claiis longed 
to procure for her a good marriage, and to place her in 
society in a manner suitable to a daughter of the Moli- 
nas, the Van Ostrom-Temnincks, and the Casa-R^'als. 
A few days before the one on which this story opens, 
the money derived from the sale of the diamonds had 
been exhausted. On the verj'' day, at three o'clock in 
the afternoon, as Madame Claes was taking her children 
to vespers, she met Pierquin, who was on his way to 
see her, and who turned and accompanied her to the 
church, talking in a low voice of her situation. 

"My dear cousin," he said, "unless I fail in the 
friendship which binds me to your family, I cannot con- 
ceal from you the peril of your position, or refrain from 
begging you to speak to j'our husband. Who but you 
can hold him back from the gulf into which he is 
plunging? The rents from the mortgaged estates are 
not enough to pay the interest on the sums he has bor- 
rowed. If he cuts the wood on them he destroys your 
last chance of safety in the future. My cousin Baltha- 
zar owes at this moment thirty thousand francs to the 



68 The Alkahest. 

house of Protez and Chiffreville. How can you pay 
them? What will 3'ou live on? If Claes persists in 
sending for reagents, retorts, voltaic batteries, and 
other such playthings, what will become of you ? Your 
whole property, except the house and furniture, has been 
dissipated in gas and carbon ; yesterday he talked of 
mortgaging the house, and in answer to a remark of 
mine, he cried out, ' The devil ! ' It was the first sign 
of reason I have known him show for three years." 

Madame Claes pressed the notary's arm, and said in 
a tone of suffering, ' ' Keep it secret." 

Overwhelmed by these plain words of startling clear- 
ness, the poor woman, pious as she was, could not 
pray ; she sat still on her chair between her children, 
with her prayer-book open, but not turning its leaves ; 
her mind was sunk in meditations as absorbing as those 
of her husband. The Spanish sense of honor, the 
Flemish integrit}', resounded in her soul with a peal 
louder than any organ. The ruin of her children was 
accomplished ! Between them and their father's honor 
she must no longer hesitate. The necessity of a com- 
ing struggle with her husband terrified her ; in her eyes 
he was so great, so majestic, that the mere prospect of 
his anger made her tremble as at a vision of the divine 
wrath. She must now depart from the submission she 
bad sacredl}^ practised as a wife. The interests of her 
children compelled her to oppose, in his most cherished 



The Alkahest. 69 

tastes, the man she idolized. Must she not daily fort-e 
him back to common matters from the higher realms of 
Science ; drag him forcibly from a smiling future and 
plunge him into a materiaUsm hideous to artists and 
great men? To her, Balthazar Claes was a Titan of 
science, a man big with glory ; he could only have for- 
gotten her for the riches of a mighty hope. Then too, 
was he not profoundly wise? she had heard him tilk 
with such good sense on every subject that he must be 
sincere when he declared he worked for the glory and 
prosperity of his family. His love for his wife and 
family was not only vast, it was infinite. That feeling 
could not be extinct ; it was magnified, and reproduced 
in another form. 

Noble, generous, timid as she was, she prepared her- 
self to ring into the ears of this noble man the word and 
the sound of mone}', to show him the sores of poverty, 
and force him to hear cries of distress when he was 
listening only for the melodious voice of Fame. Per- 
haps his love for her would lessen ! If she had had no 
children, she would bravely and joj'ously have welcomed 
the new destin}' her husband was making for her. 
Women who are brought up in opulence are quick to 
feel the emptiness of material enjoyments; and when 
their hearts, more wearied than withered, have once 
learned the happiness of a constant interchange of real 
feelings, they feel no shrinking from reduced outward 



70 The Alkahest. 

circumstances, provided they are still acceptable to the 
man who has loved them. Their wishes, their pleasures, 
are subordinated to the caprices of that other life out- 
side of their own ; to them the only dreadful future is 
to lose him. 

At this moment, therefore, her children came between 
Pepita and her true life, just as Science had come be- 
tween herself and Balthazar. And thus, when she 
reached home after vespers, and threw herself into the 
deep armchair before the window of the parlor, she sent 
away her children, directing them to keep perfectly- 
quiet, and despatched a message to her husband, 
through Lemulquinier, saying that she wished to see 
him. But although the old valet did his best to make his 
master leave the laboratory, Balthazar scarcel}' heeded 
him. Madame Claes thus gained time for reflection. 
She sat thinking, paying no attention to the hour nor 
the light. The thought of owing thirt}- thousand francs 
that could not be paid renewed her past anguish and 
joined it to that of the present and the future. This 
influx of painful interests, ideas, and feelings overcame 
her, and she wept. 

As Balthazar entered at last through the panelled 
door, the expression of his face seemed to her more 
dreadful, more absorbed, more distracted than she had 
yet seen it. When he made her no answer she was 
magnetized for a moment by the fixity of that blank 



The Alkahest. 71 

look emptied of all expression, b}- the consuming ideas 
that issued as if distilled from that bald brow. Under 
the shock of this impression she wished to die. But 
when she heard the callous voice, uttering a scientific 
wish at the moment when her heart was breaking', her 
courage came back to her; she resolved to struggle 
with that awful power which had torn a lover from her 
arms, a father from her children, a fortune from their 
home, happiness from all. And yet she could not re- 
press a trepidation which made her quiver ; in all her 
life no such solemn scene as this had taken place. This 
dreadful moment — did it not virtually contain her 
future, and gather within it all the past? 

"Weak and timid persons, or those whose excessive 
sensibility magnifies the smallest difficulties of life, 
men who tremble involuntarily before the masters of 
their fate, can now, one and all, conceive the rush of 
thoughts that crowded into the brain of this woman, 
and the feelings under the weight of which her heart 
was crushed as her husband slowly crossed the room 
towards the garden-door. Most women know that 
agony of inward deliberation in which Madame Claes 
was writhing. Even one whose heart has been tried 
by nothing worse than the declaration to a husband of 
some extravagance, or a debt to a dress-maker, will 
understand how its pulses swell and quicken when the 
matter is one of life itself. 



72 The Alkahest. 

A beautiful or graceful woman might have thrown her- 
self at her husband's feet, might have called to her aid 
the attitudes of grief; but to Madame Claes the sense 
of phj'sical defects onl}' added to her fears. When she 
saw Balthazar about to leave the room, her impulse 
was to spring towards him ; then a cruel thought re- 
strained her — she should stand before him ! would 
she not seem ridiculous in the ej'es of a man no longer 
under the glamour of love — who might see true ? 
She resolved to avoid all dangerous chances at so 
solemn a moment, and remained seated, sa3'ing in a 
clear voice, 

" Balthazar." 

He turned mechanically and coughed ; then, paying 
no attention to his wife, he walked to one of the little 
square boxes that are placed at intervals along the 
wainscoting of every room in Holland and Belgium, 
and spat in it. This man, who took no thought of 
other persons, never forgot the inveterate habit of using 
those boxes. To poor Josephine, unable to find a rea- 
son for this singularity, the constant care which her 
husband took of the furniture caused her at all times 
an unspeakable pang, but at this moment the pain was 
so violent that it put her beside herself and made her 
exclaim in a tone of impatience, which expressed her 
wounded feelings, — 

" Monsieur, I am speaking to you ! " 



The Alkahest. 73 

" What does that mean? " answered Balthazar, turn- 
ing quickl}-, and casting a look of reviving inU'lligence 
upon his wife, which fell upon her like a thunderbolt. 

" Forgive me, my friend," she said, turning pale. 
She tried to rise and put out her hand to him, but her 
strength gave way and she fell back. " I am dvin«' : " 
she cried in a voice choked b}- sobs. 

At the sight Balthazar had, hke all abstracted per- 
sons, a vivid reaction of mind ; and he divined, so to 
speak, the secret cause of this attack. Taking Madame 
Claes at once in his arms, he opened the door upon the 
little antechamber, and ran so rapidly up the ancient 
wooden staircase that his wife's dress having caught on 
the jaws of one of the griffins that supported the balus- 
trade, a whole breadth was torn off with a loud noise. 
He kicked in the door of the vestibule between their 
chambers, but the door of Josephine's bedroom was 
locked. 

He gently placed her on a chair, saying to himself, 
" My God ! the key, where is the key? " 

" Thank you, dear friend," said Madame Claiis, 
opening her eyes. ' ' This is the first time for a long, 
long while that I have been so near your heart." 

" Good God ! " cried Claes, " the key ! — here come 
the servants." 

Josephine signed to him to take a key that hnug 
from a ribbon at her waist. After opening the door, 



74 The Alkahest. 

Balthazar laid his wife on a sofa, and left the room to 
stop the frightened servants from coming up by giving 
them orders to serve the dinner ; he then went back to 
Madame Claes. 

"What is it, m}^ dear life?" he said, sitting down 
beside her, and taking her hand and kissing it. 

"Nothing — now," she answered. "I sufler no 
longer. Onl}-, I would I had the power of God to pour 
all the gold of the world at th}' feet." 

"Why gold?" he asked. He took her in his arms, 
pressed her to him and kissed her once more upon the 
forehead. " Do you not give me the greatest of all 
riches in loving me as jon do love me, my dear and 
precious wife?" 

" Oh ! m}' Balthazar, will 3'ou not drive away the 
anguish of our lives as your voice now drives out the 
misery of xny heart? At last, at last, I see that 3'Ou 
are still the same." 

" What anguish do you speak of, dear?" 

" My friend, we are ruined." 

"Ruined!" he repeated. Then, with a smile, he 
stroked her hand, holding it within his own, and said 
in his tender voice, so long unheard: "To-morrow, 
dear love, our wealth ma}' perhaps be limitless. Yester- 
da}', in searching for a far more important secret, I 
think I found the means of crystallizing carbon, the sub- 
stance of the diamond. Oh, my dear wife ! in a few 



The Alkahest. jg 

days' time you will forgive me aU my forgetfulness — I 
am forgetful sometimes, am I not? Was I not harsh to 
you just now ? Be indulgent for a man who never ceases 
to think of you, whose toils are fuU of you — of us." 

" Enough, enough ! " she said, " let us talk of it all 
to-night, dear friend. I suffered from too much grief, 
and now I suffer from too much joy." 

"To-night," he resumed; "yes, willingly: we will 
talk of it. K I fall into meditation, remind me of this 
promise. To-night I desire to leave my work, my re- 
searches, and return to family joys, to the delights of 
the heart — Pepita, I need them, I thirst for them ! " 

" You will tell me what it is you seek, Balthazar? " 

" Poor child, you cannot understand it." 

" You think so? Ah ! my friend, listen ; for nearly 
four months I have studied chemistry that I might talk 
of it with you. I have read Fourcroy, Lavoisier, Chap- 
tal, NoUet, RoueUe, Berthollet, Gay-Lussac, SpaUan- 
zani, Leuwenhoek, Galvani, Volta, — in fact, all the 
books about the science you worship. You can tell me 
your secrets, I shall understand you." 

"Oh! you are indeed an angel," cried Balthazar, 
falling at her feet, and shedding tears of tender feeling 
that made her quiver. " Yes, we will understand each 
other in all things." 

" Ah ! " she cried, " I would throw myself into those 
hellish fires which heat j'our furnaces to hear these 



76 Tlie Alkahest. 

words from your lips and to see you thus." Then, 
hearing her daughter's step in the anteroom, she sprang 
quickly forward. "What is it, Marguerite?" she said 
to her eldest daughter. 

" My dear mother. Monsieur Pierquin has just come. 
If he sta3's to dinner we need some table-linen ; you 
forgot to give it out this morning." 

Madame Claes drew from her pocket a bunch of small 
keys and gave them to the 3'oung girl, pointing to the ma- 
hogany closets which lined the ante-chamber as she said : 

" My daughter, take a set of the Graindorge linen ; 
it is on your right." 

" Since my dear Balthazar comes back to me, let the 
return be complete," she said, re-entering her chamber 
with a soft and arch expression upon her face. " My 
friend, go into your own room ; do me the kindness to 
dress for dinner, Pierquin will be with us. Come, take 
off this ragged clothing ; see those stains ! Is it muri- 
atic or sulphuric acid which left these yellow edges to 
the holes? Make yourself young again, — I will send 
you Mulquinier as soon as I have changed my dress." 

Balthazar attempted to pass through the door of 
communication, forgetting that it was locked on his 
side. He went out through the anteroom. 

"Marguerite, put the linen on a chair, and come 
and help me dress ; I don't want Martha," said Ma- 
dame Claes, calling her daughter. 



The Alkahest. 77 

Balthazar had caught Marguerite and tumetl her 
towards him with a joyous action, exclaiming : " Good- 
evening, my child ; how pretty you are in your musHn 
gown and that pink sash ! " Then he kissed her forehead 
and pressed her hand. 

"Mamma, papa has kissed me ! " cried Marguerite, 
running into her mother's room. ' ' He seems so joyous, 
80 happy ! " 

"My child, your father is a great man; for three 
years he has toiled for the fame and fortune of his 
family: he thinks he has attained the object of his 
search. This day is a festival for us all." 

"My dear mamma," rephed Marguerite, "we shall 
not be alone in our joy, for the servants have been so 
grieved to see him unlike himself. Oh ! put on another 
sash, this is faded." 

" So be it ; but make haste, I want to speak to Pier- 
quin. Where is he ?" 

" In the parlor, playing with Jean." 

" Where are Gabriel and FeUcie?" 

" I hear them in the garden." 

"Run down quickly and see that they do not pick 
the tulips ; your father has not seen them in flower tliis 
year, and he may take a fancy to look at them after 
dinner. Tell Mulquinier to go up and assist your 
father in dressing." 



78 The Alkahest, 



V. 



As Marguerite left the room, Madame Claes glanced 
at the children through the windows of her chamber, 
which looked on the garden, and saw that they were 
watching one of those insects with shining wings spotted 
with gold, commonly called " darning-needles." 

" Be good, my darlings," she said, raising the lower 
sash of the window and leaving it up to air the room. 
Then she knocked gently on the door of communication, 
to assure herself that Balthazar had not fallen into ab- 
straction. He opened it, and seeing him half-dressed, 
she said in joyous tones : — 

" You won't leave me long with Pierquin, will you? 
Come as soon as you can." 

Her step was so light as she descended that a listener 
would never have supposed her lame. 

" When monsieur carried madame upstairs," said 
the old valet, whom she met on the staircase, "he 
tore this bit out of her dress, and he broke the jaw of 
that griffin ; I 'm sure I don't know who can put it 
on again. There 'sour staircase ruined — and it used 
to be so handsome ! " 



The Alkahest. 79 

"Never mind, my poor Mulquiuier; don't have it 
mended at aU — it is not a misfortune," said hia 
mistress. 

" What can have happened?" thought Lemulquinier ; 
*' why isn't it a misfortune, I should like to know? has 
the master found the Absolute ? " 

"Good-evening, Monsieur Pierquin," said Madame 
Claes, opening the parlor door. 

The notary rushed forward to give her his arm ; as 
she never took any but that of her husband she thanked 
him with a smile and said, — 

" Have you come for the thirty thousand francs? " 

" Yes, madame ; when I reached home I found a let- 
ter of advice from Messieurs Protez and ChifTreville, 
who have drawn six letters of exchange upon Monsieur 
Claes for five thousand francs each." 

" Well, say nothing to Balthazar to-day," she replied. 
" Stay and dine with us. If he happens to ask why 
you came, find some plausible pretext, I entreat you. 
Give me the letter, I will speak to him myself about 
it. All is well," she added, noticing the lawyer's sur- 
prise. " In a few months my husband will probably 
pay off all the sums he has borrowed." 

Hearing these words, which were said in a low voice, 
the notary looked at Mademoiselle Claes, who was 
entering the room from the garden followed by Gabriel 
and Felicie, and remarked, — 



80 The Alkahest. 

" I have never seen Mademoiselle Marguerite as 
pretty as she is at this moment." 

Madame Claes, who was sitting in her armchair with 
little Jean upon her lap, raised her head and looked at 
her daughter, and then at the notary, with a pretended 
air of indifference. 

Pierquin was a man of middle height, neither stout 
nor thin, with vulgar good looks, a face that expressed 
vexation rather than melancholy, and a pensive habit in 
which there was more of indecision than thought. Peo- 
ple called him a misanthrope, but he was too eager after 
his own interests, and too extortionate towards others 
to have set up a genuine divorce from the world. His 
indifferent demeanor, his affected silence, his habitual 
custom of looking, as it were, into the void, seemed to 
indicate depth of character, while in fact they merely 
concealed the shallow insignificance of a notary busied 
exclusively with earthly interests ; though he was still 
young enough to feel envy. To maiTy into the family 
of Claes would have been to him an object of extreme 
desire, if an instinct of avarice had not underlain it. 
He could seem generous, but for all that he was a keen 
reckoner. And thus, without explaining to himself the 
motive for his change of manner, his behavior was 
harsh, peremptory, and surly, like that of an ordinary 
business man, when he thought the Claes were ruined ; 
accommodating, affectionate, and almost servile, when 



The Alkahest. gj 

he saw reason to believe in a happy issue to his cousin's 
labors. Sometimes he beheld an infanta in Marguerite 
Claes, to whom no provincial notarv might aspire ; then 
he regarded her as any poor girl too happy if he 
deigned to make her his wife. He was a true pro\in- 
cial, and a Fleming ; without malevolence, not devoid 
of devotion and kindheartedness, but led by a naive 
selfishness which rendered all his better qualities incom- 
plete, while certain absurdities of manner spoiled his 
personal appearance. 

Madame Claes recollected the curt tone in which the 
notary had spoken to her that afternoon in the porch of 
the church, and she took note of the change which her 
present reply had wrought in his demeanor ; she guessed 
its meaning and tried to read her daughter's mind by 
a penetrating glance, seeking to discover if she thought 
of her cousin ; but the young girl's manner showed 
complete indifference. 

After a few moments spent in general conversation 
on the current topics of the day, the master of the house 
came down from his bedroom, where his wife had heard 
with inexpressible delight the creaking sound of his 
boots as he trod the floor. The step was that of a young 
and active man, and foretold so complete a transfor- 
mation, that the mere expectation of his appoaranc-e 
made Madame Claes quiver as he descended the stairs. 

Balthazar entered, dressed in the fashion of the period 

6 



82 The Alkahest. 

He wore highly polished top-boots, which allowed the 
upper part of the white silk stockings to appear, blue 
kerseymere small-clothes with gold buttons, a flowered 
white waistcoat, and a blue frock-coat. He had trimmed 
his beard, combed and perfumed his hair, pared his 
nails, and washed' his hands, all with such care that he 
was scarcely recognizable to those who had seen him 
latel3\ Instead of an old man almost decrepit, his 
children, his wife, and the notary saw a Balthazar 
Claes who was forty years old, and whose courteous and 
affable presence was full of its former attractions. The 
weariness and suffering betraj^ed by the thin face and 
the clinging of the skin to the bones, had in themselves 
a sort of charm. 

" Good-evening, Pierquin," said Monsieur Claes. 

Once more a husband and a father, he took his 
3'oungest child from his wife's lap and tossed him in 
the air. 

" See that little fellow ! " he exclaimed to the notary. 
"Doesn't such a pretty creature make you long to 
marry? Take my word for it, my dear Pierquin, famil}- 
happiness consoles a man for everj^thing. Up, up ! " 
he cried, tossing Jean in the air; "down, down! up T 
down ! " 

The child laughed with all his heart as he went alter- 
nately to the ceiling and down to the carj^et. The 
mother turned away her eyes that she might not betray 



The Alkahest. g3 

the emotion which the simple plaj caused her, — shuple 
apparent!}-, but to her a domestic revolution. 

"Let me see how you can walk," said Balthazar, 
putting his son on the floor and throwing himself ou :i 
sofa near his wife. 

The child ran to its father, attracted by the glitu^r 
of the gold buttons which fastened the breeches just 
above the slashed tops of his boots. 

" You are a darling ! " cried Balthazar, kissing him ; 
" you are a Claes, you walk straight. Well, Gabriel, 
how is Pere Morillon? " he said to his eldest son, tak- 
ing him by the ear and twisting it. "Are you strug- 
gling valiantly with your themes and your construing? 
have 3'ou taken sharp hold of mathematics?" 

Then he rose, and went up to the notary with the 
affectionate courtesy that characterized him. 

" My dear Pierquin," he said, " perhaps you have 
something to sa}' to me." He took his arm to lead 
him to the garden, adding, " Come and see my 
tulips." 

Madame Claes looked at her husband as he left the 
room, unable to repress the joy she felt in seeing him 
once more so young, so affable, so truly himself. She 
rose, took her daughter round the waist and kissed her, 
exclaiming : — 

" My dear Marguerite, my darUng child ! I love you 
better than ever to-day." 



84 The Alkahest. 

"It is long since I have seen my father so kind/* 
answered the young girl. 

Lemulquinier announced dinner. To prevent Pier- 
quin from offering her his arm, Madame Claes took that 
of her husband and led the way into the nest room, the 
whole family following. 

The dining-room, whose ceiling was supported by 
beams and decorated with paintings cleaned and re- 
stored every year, was furnished with tall oaken side- 
boards and buffets, on whose shelves stood many a 
curious piece of family china. The walls were hung 
with violet leather, on which designs of game and 
other hunting objects were stamped in gold. Carefully 
arranged here and there above the shelves, shone the 
brilliant plumage of strange birds, and the lustre of rare 
shells. The chairs, which evidently had not been 
changed since the beginning of the sixteenth centur}', 
showed the square shape with twisted columns and the 
low back covered with a fringed stuff, common to that 
period, and glorified by Raphael in his picture of the 
Madonna della Sedia. The wood of these chairs was 
now black, but the gilt nails shone as if new, and the 
stuff, carefully renewed from time to time, was of an 
admirable shade of red. 

The whole life of Flanders with its Spanish innova- 
tions was in this room. The decanters and flasks on 
the dinner-table, with their graceful antique lines and 



The Alkahett. ^5 

swelling curves, had an air of respectabUity. Tho 
glasses were those old goblets with stems and feet 
which ma}^ be seen in the pictures of the Dutch or 
Flemish school. The dinner-senice of faience, deco- 
rated with raised colored figures, in the manner of Ber- 
nard Palissj, came from the English manufactory of 
Wedgwood. The sUver-ware was massive, wiUi square 
sides and designs in high relief, — genuine family plate, 
whose pieces, in every variety of form, fashion, and chas- 
ing, showed the beginnings of prosperity and the progress 
towards fortune of the Claes family. The napkins were 
fringed, a fashion altogether Spanish; and as for tho 
linen, it will readily be supposed that the Claes's house- 
hold made it a point of honor to possess the best. 

All this service of the table, silver, linen, and glass, 
were for the daily use of the family. The front house, 
where the social entertainments were given, had ita 
own especial luxury, whose marvels, being reserved for 
great occasions, wore an air of dignity often lost to 
things which are, as it were, made common by daily 
use. Here, in the home quarter, everj'thing bore the 
impress of patriarchal use and simpHcity. And — for 
a final and delightful detail — a vine grew outside the 
house between the windows, whose tendrilled branches 
twined about the casements. 

" You are faithful to the old traditions, madame," 
said Pierquin, as he received a plate of that celebrate J 



86 The AlTcaliest. 

thyme soup in which the Dutch and Flemish cooks put 
little force-meat balls and dice of fried bread. " This 
is the Sunday soup of our forefathers. Your house and 
that of my uncle des Raquets are the only ones where 
we still find this historic soup of the Netherlands. Ah ! 
pardon me, old Monsieur Savaron de Savarus of Tour- 
nai makes it a matter of pride to keep up the custom ; 
but everywhere else old Flanders is disappearing. 
Now-a-days everything is changing ; furniture is made 
from Greek models ; wherever you go you see helmets, 
lances, shields, and bows and arrows ! Everybody is 
rebuilding his house, selling his old furniture, melting 
up his silver dishes, or exchanging them for Sevres 
porcelain, — which does not compare with either old 
Dresden or with Chinese ware. Oh ! as for me, I 'm 
Flemish to the core ; my heart actually bleeds to see 
the coppersmiths buj'ing up our beautiful inlaid furni- 
ture for the mere value of the wood and the metal. 
The fact is, society wants to change its skin. Every- 
thing is being sacrificed, even the old methods of art. 
When people insist on going so fast, nothing is con- 
scientiously done. During my last visit to Paris I was 
taken to see the pictures in the Louvre. On my word 
of honor, they are mere screen-painting, — no depth, no 
atmosphere ; the painters were actually afraid to put 
colors on their canvas. And it is thej^ who talk of 
overturning our ancient school of art ! Ah, bah ! — " 



The Alkahest. 87 

"Our old masters," replied Balthazar, "studied the 
combination of colors and their endurance by submits 
ting them to the action of sun and rain. You are right 
enough, however ; the material resources of art arc less 
cultivated in these da^-s than formerly." 

Madame Claes was not listening to the conversa- 
tion. The notar\-'s remark that porcelain dinner-ser- 
vices were now the fashion, gave her the brilliant idea 
of selling a quantity of heavy silver-ware which she 
had inherited from her brother, — hoping to be able 
thus to pay off the thirty thousand francs which her 
husband owed. 

" Ha ! ha ! " Balthazar was saying to Pierquin when 
Madame Claes's mind returned to the conversation, 
" so they are discussing my work in Douai, are they?" 

" Yes," replied the notary, " every one is asking 
what it is j-ou spend so much mone}- on. Only yester- 
day I heard the chief-justice deploring that a man like 
yon should be searching for the Philosopher's stone. 
I ventured to reply that you were too wise not to 
know that such a scheme was attempting the impossi- 
ble, too much of a Christian to take God's work out of 
his hands ; and, like every other Claes, too good a busi- 
ness man to spend your money for such befooling 
quackeries. Still, I admit that I share the regret peo- 
ple feel at your absence from society. You might as 
well not live here at all. Really, madame, you would 



88 The Alkahest. 

have been delighted had you heard the praises show- 
ered on Monsieur Claes and on you." 

" You acted like a faithful friend in repelling impu- 
tations whose least e\al is to make me ridiculous," 
said Balthazar. "Ha! so they think me ruined? 
Well, my dear Pierquin, two months hence I shall 
give a fete in honor of my wedding-day whose mag- 
nificence will get me back the respect my dear towns- 
men bestow on wealth." 

Madame Claes colored deeply. For two years the 
anniversary had been forgotten. Like madmen whose 
faculties shine at times with unwonted brillianc}", Bal- 
thazar was never more gracious and delightful in his 
tenderness than at this moment. He was full of atten- 
tion to his children, and his conversation had the 
charms of grace, and wit, and pertinence. This return 
of fatherly feeling, so long absent, was certainly- the 
truest fete he could give his wife, for whom his looks 
and words expressed once more that unbroken sym- 
pathy of heart for heart which reveals to each a deli- 
cious oneness of sentiment. 

Old Lemulquinier seemed to renew his youth ; he 
came and went about the table with unusual liveliness, 
caused by the accomplishment of his secret hopes. 
The sudden change in his master's ways was even more 
significant to him than to Madame Claes. Where the 
family saw happiness he saw fortune. While helping 



The Alkahest. 89 

Balthazar in his experiments he had grown to share his 
beliefs. Whether he really understood the drift of his 
master's researches from certain exclamations -which 
escaped the chemist when expected results disappointed 
him, or whether the innate tendenc}' of mankind to- 
wards imitation made him adopt the ideas of the man 
in whose atmosphere he lived, certain it is that Lcmul- 
quinier had conceived for his master a superstitious 
feeling that was a mixture of terror, admiration, and 
selfishness. The laboratory was to him what a lottery- 
office is to the masses, — organized hope. Every night 
he went to bed saj-ing to himself, "To-morrow we 
may float in gold ; " and every morning he woke with 
a faith as firm as that of the night before. 

His name proved that his origin was wholl}- Flemish. 
In former days the lower classes were known by some 
name or nickname derived from their trades, their sur- 
roundings, their physical conformation, or their moral 
qualities. This name became the patronymic of the 
burgher famil}' which each established as soon as he 
obtained his freedom. Sellers of hnen thread were 
called in Flanders " mulquiniers ;''^ and that no doubt 
was the trade of the particular ancestor of the old valet 
who passed from a state of serfdom to one of burgher 
dignity, until some unknown misfortune had again re- 
duced his present descendant to the condition of a serf, 
with the addition of wages. The whole history of 



90 The Alkahest. 

Flanders and its linen-trade was epitomized in this old 
man, often called, by way of euphony, Mulquinier. 
He was not without originality, either of character or 
appearance. His face was triangular in shape, broad 
and long, and seamed by small-pox which had left in- 
numerable white and shining patches that gave him a 
fantastic appearance. He was tall and thin ; his whole 
demeanor solemn and m^^sterious ; and his small eyes, 
yellow as the wig which was smoothly plastered on his 
head, cast none but oblique glances. 

The old valet's outward man was in keeping with 
the feeling of curiosity which he everywhere in- 
spired. His position as assistant to his master, the 
depositary of a secret jealously guarded and about 
which he maintained a rigid silence, invested him with 
a species of charm. The denizens of the rue de Paris 
watched him pass with an interest mingled with awe ; 
to all their questions he returned sibylUne answers big 
with mj^sterious treasures. Proud of being necessary 
to his master, he assumed an annoying authority over 
his companions, employing it to further his own in- 
terests and compel a submission which made him 
virtually the ruler of the house. Contrary to the cus- 
tom of Flemish servants, who are deeply attached to 
the famiUes whom they serve, Mulquinier cared only 
for Balthazar. If any trouble befel Madame Claes, or 
any joyful event happened to the family, he ate his 



The Alkahest. 91 

bread and butter and drank his beer as phlegmatically 
as ever. 

Dinner over, Madame Claes proposed that coffee 
should be served in the garden, by the bed of tulips 
which adorned the centre of it. The earthenware j)oi8 
in which the bulbs were grown (the name of each flowor 
being engraved on slate labels) were sunk in the groutul 
and so arranged as to form a pyramid, at the summit 
of which rose a certain dragon's-head tulip which Bal- 
thazar alone possessed. This flower, named tulipn 
(Jla'esiana, combined the seven colors ; and the curved 
edges of each petal looked as though they were gilt. 
Balthazar's father, who had frequently refused ten thou- 
sand florins for this treasure, took such precautious 
against the theft of a single seed that he kept the plant 
always in the parlor and often spent whole days in coii- 
templating it. The stem was enormous, erect, firm, 
and admirabl}- green ; the proportions of the plant wore 
in harmony with the proportions of the flower, whose 
seven colors were distinguishable from each other with 
the clearly defined brilliancy which formerly gave sucli 
fabulous value to these dazzling plants. 

"Here j-ou have at least thirty or forty thousand 
francs' vrorth of tulips," said the notary, looking alter- 
nately at Madame Claes and at the many-colored pyra- 
mid. The former was too enthusiastic over the beauty 
of the flowers, which the setting sun was just then 



92 The Alkahest. 

transforming into jewels, to observe the meaning of 
the notar^-'s words. 

" What good do they do you ? " continued Pierquin, 
addressing Balthazar ; " 3'ou ought to sell them." 

"Bah! am I in want of money?" replied Claes, in 
the tone of a man to whom forty thousand francs was 
a matter of no consequence. 

There was a moment's silence, during which the 
chUdren made many exclamations. 

" See this one, mamma ! " 

"Oh! here's a beauty!" 

" Tell me the name of that one ! " 

"What a gulf for human reason to sound!" cried 
Balthazar, raising his hands and clasping them with a 
gesture of despair. "A compound of hydrogen and 
ox3-gen gives off, according to their relative propor- 
tions, under the same conditions and by the same 
principle, these manifold colors, each of which consti- 
tutes a distinct result." 

His wife heard the words of his proposition, but it 
was uttered so rapidly that she did not seize its exact 
meaning ; and Balthazar, as if remembering that she 
had studied his favorite science, made her a mysterious 
sign, saying, — 

" You do not yet understand me, but you will." 

Then he apparently fell back into the absorbed medi- 
tation now habitual to him. 



The Alkahest. 98 

*' No, I am sure you do not understand him," said 
Pierquin, taking his coffee from Marguerite's hand. 
" The Ethiopian can't change his skin, nor the leopard 
his spots," he whispered to Madame Claes. " lUve 
the goodness to remonstrate with him later ; the devil 
himself could n't draw him out of his cogitation now : 
he is in it for to-day, at any rate." 

So saving, he bade good-by to Claes, who pretended 
not to hear him, kissed Uttle Jean in his mother's arms, 
and retired with a low bow. 

When the street-door clanged behind him, Balthazar 
caught his wife round the waist, and put an end to the 
uneasiness his feigned revery was causing her bv 
whispering in her ear, — 

" I knew how to get rid of him." 

Madame Claes turned her face to her husband, not 
ashamed to let him see the tears of happiness that 
filled her eyes : then she rested her forehead against his 
shoulder and let little Jean slide to the floor. 

"Let us go back into the parlor," she said, after a 
pause. 

Balthazar was exuberantly gay throughout the even- 
ing. He invented games for the children, and played 
with such zest himself that he did not notice two or 
three short absences made by his wife. About half- 
past nine, when Jean had gone to bed, Marguerite 
returned to the parlor after helping her sister Fi'licie 



94 The Alkahest. 

to undress, and found her mother seated in the deep 
armchair, and her father holding his wife's hand 
as he talked to her. The young girl feared to dis- 
turb them, and was about to retire without speak- 
ing, when Madame Claes caught sight of her, and 
said : — 

"Come in. Marguerite; come here, dear child." 
She drew her down, kissed her tenderly on the fore- 
head, and added, " Carry your book into your own 
room ; but do not sit up too late." 

" Good-night, my darling daughter," said Balthazar. 

Marguerite kissed her father and mother and went 
away. Husband and wife remained alone for some 
minutes without speaking, watching the last glimmer of 
the twilight as it faded from the trees in the garden, 
whose outlines were scarcely discernible through the 
gathering darkness. When night had almost fallen, 
Balthazar said to his wife in a voice of emotion, — 

" Let us go upstairs." 

Long before English manners and customs had conse- 
crated the wife's chamber as a sacred spot, that of a 
Flemish woman was impenetrable. The good house- 
wives of the Low Countries did not make it a sj^mbol 
of virtue. It was to them a habit contracted from child- 
hood, a domestic superstition, rendering the bedroom a 
delightful sanctuary of tender feelings, where simplicity 
blended with all that was most sweet and sacred in 



The Alkahest. 95 

social life. Any woman in Madame Claes's i^sition 
-n-ould have wished to gather about her the elegances of 
life, but Josephine had done so with exquisite taste, 
knowing well how great an influence the aspect of our 
surroundings exerts upon the feeUngs of othere. To 
a pretty creature it would have been mere luxury, to 
her it was a necessity. No one better understood Uie 
meaning of the saying, '« A pretty woman is self- 
created," — a maxim which guided every action of Na- 
poleon's first wife, and often made her false ; whcrcaa 
Madame Claes was ever natural and true. 

Though Balthazar knew his wife's chamber well, his 
forgetfulness of material things had lately been so com- 
plete that he felt a thrill of soft emotion when he entered 
it, as though he saw it for the first time. The proud 
gayety of a triumphant woman glowed in the splendid 
colors of the tulips which rose from the long throats of 
Chinese vases judiciously placed about the room, and 
sparkled in the profusion of lights whose eflTect can onlj- 
be compared to a joyous burst of martial music. The 
gleam of the wax candles cast a mellow sheen on the 
coverings of pearl-gray silk, whose monotony was re- 
lieved by touches of gold, soberly distributed here and 
there on a few ornaments, and b}' the varied colors of 
the tulips, which were like sheaves of precious stones. 
The secret of this choice arrangement — it was he, ever 
he ! Josephine could not tell him in words more 



96 The Alkahest. 

eloquent that he was now and ever the mainspring of 
her joys and woes. 

The aspect of that chamber put the soul deliciously 
at ease, cast out sad thoughts, and left a sense of pure 
and equable happiness. The silken coverings, brought 
from China, gave forth a soothing perfume that pene- 
trated the system without fatiguing it. The curtains, 
carefully drawn, betrayed a desire for solitude, a jealous 
intention of guarding the sound of every word, of hiding 
every look of the reconquered husband. Madame 
Claes, wearing a dressing-robe of muslin, which was 
trimmed by a long pelerine with falls of lace that came 
about her throat, and adorned with her beautiful black 
hair, which was exquisitely glossy and fell on either 
side her forehead hke a raven's wing, went to draw the 
tapestry portiere that hung before the door and allowed 
no sound to penetrate the chamber from without. 



The Alkahest. 97 



VI. 

At the doorwa}- Josephine turned, and threw to bet 
husband, who was sitting near the chimne}-, one of 
those gay smiles with which a sensitive woman whose 
soul comes at moments into her face, rendering it beau- 
tiful, gives expression to irresistible hopes. Woman's 
greatest charm lies in her constant appeal to the gener- 
osity of man by the admission of a weakness which stirs 
his pride and wakens him to the nobler sentiments. 
Is not such an avowal of weakness full of magical se- 
duction ? When the rings of the portiere had slipped 
with a muffled sound along the wooden rod, she turned 
towards Claes, and made as though she would hide her 
physical defects b}' resting her hand upon a chair and 
drawing herself gracefully forward. It was calling him 
to help her. Balthazar, sunk for a moment in contem- 
plation of the olive-tinted head, which attracted and 
satisfied the eye as it stood out in relief against the 
soft gray background, rose to take his wife in his arms 
and carry her to her sofa. This was what she wanted. 

" You promised me," she said, taking his hand which 
ehe held between her own magnetic palms, " to tell mo 



98 The Alkahest. 

the secret of your researches. Admit, dear friend, that 
I am worthy to know it, since I have had the courage 
to study a science condemned by the Church that I 
might be able to understand you. I am curious ; hide 
nothing from me. Tell me first how it happened that 
you rose one morning anxious and oppressed, when 
over night I had left you happ3%" 

"Is it to hear me talk of chemistry that you have 
made yourself so coquettishly delightful?" 

" Dear friend, a confidence which puts me in j'our 
inner heart is the greatest of all pleasures for me ; is it 
not a communion of souls which gives birth to the 
highest happiness of earth? Your love comes back to 
me not lessened, pure ; I long to know what dream has 
had the power to keep it from me so long. Yes, I am 
more jealous of a thought than of all the women in the 
world. Love is vast, but it is not infinite, while Science 
has depths unfathomed, to which I will not let you go 
alone. I hate all that comes between us. If j'ou win 
the glory for which you strive, I must be unhappy ; it 
will bring you joj', while I — I alone — should be the 
giver of your happiness." 

"No, my angel, it was not an idea, not a thought; 
it was a man that first led me into this glorious path." 

" A man ! " she cried in terror. 

" Do you remember, Pepita, the Polish oflicer who 
stayed with us in 1809?" 



The Alkahest. 99 

"Do I remember him!" she exclaimed; -I am 
often annoyed because ray memory still recalls those 
eyes, like tongues of fire darting from coals of hell, 
those hollows above the eyebrows, that broad skull 
stripped of hair, the upturned moustache, the angular, 
worn face ! — "What awful impassiveness in his l>ear- 
ing ! Ah ! surely if there had been a room in any itui 
i would never have allowed him to sleep here." 

"That Polish gentleman," resumed Balthazar, '• was 
named Adam de Wierzchownia. When you K-ft us 
alone that evening in the parlor, wc hapi>ened by 
chance to speak of chemistry. Compelled by poverty 
to give up the study of that science, he had become a 
soldier. It was, I think, by means of a glass of sug- 
ared water that wc recognized each other as adepts. 
When I ordered Mulquinier to bring the sugar in pieces, 
the captain gave a start of surj)rise. ' Have you stud- 
ied chemistry ? ' he asked. ' With Lavoisier,' I an- 
swered. ' You are happy in being rich and free,' he 
cried ; then from the depths of his bosom came the sigh 
of a man, — one of those sighs which reveal a hell of an- 
guish hidden in the brain or in the heart, a something 
ardent, concentrated, not to be expressed in words. 
He ended his sentence with a look that startled me. 
After a pause, he told me that Poland being at her 
last gasp he had taken refuge in Sweden. There he 
had sought consolation for his country's fate in the 



100 The Alkahest. 

study of chemistry, for which he had always felt an 
irresistible vocation. ' And I see you recognize as I 
do,' he added, 'that gum arabic, sugar, and starch, 
reduced to powder, each jield a substance absolutely 
similar, with, when analj'zed, the same qualitative 
result.' 

"He paused again; and then, after examining me 
with a searching eye, he said confidentially, in a low 
voice, certain grave words whose general meaning 
alone remains fixed on my memory ; but he spoke with 
a force of tone, with fervid inflections, with an energj^ 
of gesture, which stirred my very vitals, and struck my 
imagination as the hammer strikes the anvil. I will tell 
3"0u briefly the arguments he used, which were to me 
like the live coal laid by the Almighty upon Isaiah's 
tongue ; for my studies with Lavoisier enabled me to 
understand their full bearing. 

" ' Monsieur,' he said, ' the parity of these three sub- 
stances, in appearance so distinct, led me to think that 
all the productions of nature ought to have a single 
principle. The researches of modern chemistry prove 
the truth of this law in the larger part of natural 
efiects. Chemistry divides creation into two distinct 
parts, — organic nature, and inorganic nature. Or- 
ganic nature, comprising as it does all animal and vege- 
table creations which show an organization more or less 
perfect, — or, to be more exact, a greater or lesser 



The Alkahest. 101 

motive power, which gives more or less sensibiUty, — 
is, undoubtedly, the more important part of our earth. 
Now, analysis has reduced all the products of this 
nature to four simple substances, namely : three gases, 
nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen, and another simple 
substance, non-metallic and soUd, carbon. Inorganic 
nature, on the contrary, so simple, devoid of movement 
and sensation, denied the power of growth (too hastily 
accorded to it by Linnaeus) , possesses fifty-three simi)le 
substances, or elements, whose different combinations 
make its products. Is it probable that means shouU\ 
be more numerous where a lesser number of results aro 
produced ? 

" ' My master's opinion was that these fifty-three pri- 
mary bodies have one originating principle, acted upon 
in the past by some force the knowledge of which has 
perished to-daj', but which human genius ought to redis- 
cover. Well, then, suppose that this force does live and 
act again ; we have chemical unit}'. Organic and inor- 
ganic nature would apparently then rest on four essential 
principles, — in fact, if we could decompose nitrogen 
which we ought to consider a negation, we should have 
but three. This brings us at once close upon the great 
Ternary of the ancients and of the alchemists of the Mid- 
dle Ages, whom we do wrong to scorn. Modern chem- 
istry is nothing more than that. It is much, and yet 
little, — much, because the science has never recoiled 



102 The Alkahest. 

before difficulty ; little, in comparison with what remains 
to be done. Chance has served her well, my noble Sci- 
ence ! Is not that tear of crj'stallized pure carbon, the 
diamond, seemingly the last substance possible to cre- 
ate? The old alchemists, who thought that gold was 
decomposable and therefore creatable, shrank from the 
idea of producing the diamond. Yet we have discov- 
ered the nature and the law of its composition. 

" ' As for me,' he continued, ' I have gone farther 
still. An experiment proved to me that the mysterious 
Ternary, which has occupied the human mind from 
time immemorial, will not be found by physical analy- 
ses, which lack direction to a fixed point. I will relate, 
in the first place, the experiment itself. 

" ' Sow cress-seed (to take one among the many sub- 
stances of organic nature) in flour of brimstone (to take 
another simple substance). Sprinkle the seed with dis- 
tilled water, that no unknown element may reach the 
product of the germination. The seed germinates, and 
sprouts from a known environment, and feeds onl}' on 
elements known by analysis. Cut off the stalks from 
time to time, till j'ou get a sufiicient quantity to pro- 
duce after burning them enough ashes for the experi- 
ment. "Well, by analyzing those ashes, you will obtain 
silicic acid, aluminium, phosphate and carbonate of 
lime, carbonate of magnesia, the sulphate and carbonate 
of potassium, and oxide of iron, precisely as if the 



The Alkahest. 103 

cress had grown in ordinary earth, beside a brook. 
Now, those elements did not exist in the brimstoue, 
a simple substance which served for soil to Uie cress 
nor in the distilled water with wliich the plant was 
nourished, whose composition was known. But since 
thej' are no more to be found in the seed itself, we i-uu 
explain their presence in the plant onl}- by assuming the 
existence of a primary element common to all the sub- 
stances contained in the cress, and also to all those bv 
which we environed it. Thus the air, the distilled 
water, the brimstone, and the various elements which 
analj'sis finds in the cress, namely, potash, lime, mag- 
nesia, aluminium, etc., should have one common prin- 
ciple floating in the atmosphere like light of the sun. 

*' 'From this unimpeachable experiment,' he cried, ' I 
deduce the existence of the Alkahest, the Absolute, — 
a substance common to all created things, differentiated 
b}' one primary' force. Such is the net meaning and 
position of the problem of the Absolute, which appears 
to me to be solvable. In it we find the mysterious 
Ternary, before whose shrine humanity has knelt from 
the dawn of ages, — the primary matter, the medium, 
the product. "We find that terrible number Tiiukk in 
all things human. It governs reUgions, sciences, and 
laws. 

" 'It was at this point,' he went on, ' that poverty 
put an end to my researches. You were the pupil of 



104 The Alkahest. 

Lavoisier, you are rich, and master of your own time, 
I will therefore tell you my conjectures. Listen to the 
conclusions my personal experiments have led me to 
foresee. The Prime Matter must be the common 
principle in the three gases and in carbon. The Me- 
dium must be the principle common to negative and 
positive electricit}'. Proceed to the discovery of the 
proofs that will establish those two truths ; 3-ou will 
then find the explanation of all phenomenal existence. 

" ' Oh, monsieur ! ' he cried, striking his brow, ' when 
I know that I carry here the last word of Creation, 
when intuitively I perceive the Unconditioned, is it 
living to be dragged hither and thither in the ruck of 
men who fly at each other's throats at the word of com- 
mand without knowing what they are doing ? My actual 
life is an inverted dream. My body comes and goes and 
acts ; it moves amid bullets, and cannon, and men ; it 
crosses Europe at the will of a power I obey and yet 
despise. My soul has no consciousness of these acts ; 
it is fixed, immovable, plunged in one idea, rapt in that 
idea, the Search for the Alkahest, — for that principle 
by which seeds that are absolutely alike, growing in the 
same environments, produce, some a white, others a 
yellow flower. The same phenomenon is seen in silk- 
worms fed from the same leaves, and apparently con- 
stituted exactly alike, — one produces yellow silk, 
another white ; and if we come to man himself, we 



The Alkahest. 105 

find that children often resemble neither fiilher nor 
mother. The logical deduction from this fact surely in- 
volves the explanation of all the phenomena of nature. 

" ' Ah, what can be more in harmony with our ideas 
of God than to believe he created all things by the 
simplest method? The Pythagorean worship of Onk, 
from which come all other numbers, and which repre- 
sents Primal Matter ; that of the number Two, the first 
aggregation and the type of all the rest ; that of the 
number Three, which throughout all time has symbo- 
lized God, — that is to say, Matter, Force, and Pro- 
duct, — are they not an echo, lingering along the ages, 
of some confused knowledge of the Absolute? Stahl, 
Becker, Paracelsus, Agi-ippa, all the great Searchers 
into occult causes took the Great Triad for their watch- 
word, — in other words, the Ternary. Ignorant men 
who despise alchem}, that transcendent chemistry, arc 
not aware that our work is onlj* carrying onward the 
passionate researches of those great men. Had I found 
the Absolute, the Unconditioned, I meant to liave 
grappled with Motion. Ah ! while I am swallowing 
gunpowder and leading men uselessly to their death, 
my former master is piling discover}' upon discovery ! 
he is soaring towards the Absolute, while I — 1 shall 
die like a dog in the trenches ! ' 

*' When this poor grand man recovered his compo* 
sure, he said, in a touching tone of brotherhood, ' If I 



106 The Alkahest. 

see cause for a great experiment I will bequeath it to 
you before I die.' — My Pepita," cried Balthazar, taking 
his wife's hands, " tears of anguish rolled down his 
hollow cheeks, as he cast into my soul the fiery argu- 
ments that Lavoisier had timidly recognized without 
daring to follow them out — " 

"Oh ! " cried Madame Claes, unable to refrain from 
interrupting her husband, "that man, passing one 
night under our roof, was able to deprive us of your 
love, to destroy with a phrase, a word, the happiness 
of a family ! Oh, my dear Balthazar, did he make 
the sign of the cross? did you examine him? The 
Tempter alone could have had that flaming ej'e which 
sent forth the fire of Prometheus. Yes, none but the 
Devil could have torn j'ou from me. From that day 
3'ou have been neither husband, nor father, nor master 
of your famil}'." 

' ' What ! " exclaimed Balthazar, springing to his feet 
and casting a piercing glance at his wife, "do 3'ou 
blame your husband for rising above the level of other 
men that he may lay at your feet the divine purple of 
his gloi'y, as a paltry offering in exchange for the treas- 
ures of j^our heart! Ah, my Pepita," he cried, "you 
do not know what I have done. In these three years 
I have made giant strides — " 

His face seemed to his wife at this moment more 
transfigured under the fires of genius than she had ever 



The Alkahest. 107 

seen it under the fires of love ; and she wept as she 
listened to him. 

" I have combined chlorine and nitrogen ; T have de- 
composed many substances hitherto considered simple ; 
I have discovered new metals. Why ! " he continued, 
noticing that his wife wept, "I have even deconi- 
posed tears. Tears contain a little phosphate of lime, 
chloride of sodium, mucin, and water." 

He went on speaking, without oliserving tlie spasm 
of pain that contracted Josephine's features ; In- was 
again astride of Science, which bore him with outspread 
wings far away from material existence. 

"This anah'sis, my dear," he went on, "is one of 
the most convincing proofs of the theory of the Abso- 
lute. All life involves combustion. According to the 
greater or the lesser activity of the fire on its hearth 
is life more or less enduring. In like manner, the de- 
struction of mineral bodies is indefinitely retarded, 
because in their case combustion is nominal, latent, 
or imperceptible. In like manner, again, vegetaliles, 
which are constantl}^ revived by combinations pro<Uicing 
dampness, live indefinitely ; in fact, we still possess 
certain vegetables which existed before the periotl of 
the last cataclysm. But each time that nature has 
perfected an organism and then, for some unknown 
reason, has introduced into it sensation, instinct, or in- 
telligence (three marked stages of the organic system), 



108 The Alkahest. 

these three agencies necessitate a combustion whose 
activity is in direct proportion to the result obtained. 
Man, who represents the highest point of intelligence, 
and who offers us the only organism by which we 
arrive at a power that is semi-creative — namely, 
Thought — is, among all zoological creations, the one 
in which combustion is found in its most intense de- 
gi'ee ; whose powerful effects may in fact be seen to 
some extent in the phosphates, sulphates, and carbo- 
nates which man's body reveals to our anatysis. May 
not these substances be traces left within him of the 
passage of the electric fluid which is the principle of 
all fertilization ? Would not electricity manifest itself 
by a greater variety of compounds in him than in any 
other animal? Should not he have faculties above 
those of all other created beings for the purpose of 
absorbing fuller portions of the Absolute principle? 
and may he not assimilate that principle so as to pro- 
duce, in some more perfect mechanism, his force and 
his ideas? I think so. Man is a retort. In my 
judgment, the brain of an idiot contains too little 
phosphorus or other product of electro-magnetism, 
that of a madman too much ; the brain of an or- 
dinary man has but little, while that of a man of 
genius is saturated to its due degree. The man 
constantly in love, the street-porter, the dancer, the 
large eater, are the ones who disperse the force 



The Alkahest. IQg 

resulting from their electrical apparatus. ConsequeuUy, 
our feelings — " 

"Enough, Balthazar! you terrify me; you commit 
sacrilege. What, is my love — " 

"An ethereal matter disengaged, an emanation, the 
key of the Absolute. Conceive if I— I, the Grst, 
should find it, find it, find it ! " 

As he uttered the words in three rising tones, the ex- 
pression of his face rose by degrees to inspiration. " I 
shall make metals," he cried ; " I shall make diamonds, 
I shall be a co-worker with Nature ! " 

" WiU you be the happier?" she asked in despair. 
"Accursed science! accursed demon! You forget, 
Claes, that you commit the sin of pride, the sin of which 
Satan was guilty ; you assume the attributes of Gotl." 

"Oh! oh! God!" 

"He denies Him!" she cried, wringing her hands. 
" Claes, God wields a power that 3'ou can never gain." 

At this argument, which seemed to discredit his be- 
loved Science, he looked at his wife and trembled. 

" What power?" he asked. 

"Primal force — motion," she replied. "This is 
what I learn from the books your mania has constrained 
me to read. Analyze fruits, flowers, Malaga wine ; you 
will discover, undoubtedl}', that their substances come, 
like those of your water-cress, from a medium that 
seems foreign to them. You can, if need be, find them 



110 The Alkahest. 

in nature ; but when you have them, can you combine 
them? can jon make the flowers, the fruits, the Malaga 
wine? Will you have grasped the inscrutable effects 
of the sun, of the atmosphere of Spain ? Ah ! decom- 
posing is not creating." 

" If I discover the magistral force, I shall be able to 
create." 

" Will nothing stop him? " cried Pepita. "Oh ! my 
love, my love ! it is killed ! I have lost him ! " 

She svept bitterly, and her eyes, illumined by grief 
and b}' the sanctity of the feelings that flooded her soul, 
shone with greater beaut}' than ever through her tears. 

"Yes," she resumed in a broken voice, "you are 
dead to all. I see it but too well. Science is more 
powerful within you than your own self; it bears you to 
heights from which you will return no more to be the 
companion of a poor woman. What joys can I still 
offer you? Ah! I would fain believe, as a wretched 
consolation, that God has indeed created you to make 
manifest his works, to chant his praises ; that he has 
put within 3'our breast the irresistible power that has 
mastered you — But no ; God is good ; he would keep 
in your heart some thoughts of the woman who adores 
you, of the children you are bound to protect. It is the 
Evil One alone who is helping yoxx to walk amid these 
fathomless abysses, these clouds of outer darkness, 
where the light of faith does not guide you, — nothing 



The Alkahest. HI 

guides you but a terrible beUef in your own faculties! 
Were it otherwise, would you not have seen that you 
have wasted nine hundred thousand franca in thrte 
years? Oh ! do me justice, you, my God on earth ! I 
reproach you not; were we alone 1 would bring you, 
on my knees, all that I possess and say, 'Take it, 
fling it into your furnace, turn it into smoke ; ' and I 
should laugh to see it float away in vapor. AVere you 
poor, I would beg without shame for the coal to light 
your furnace. Oh! could my body yield your hateful 
Alkahest, I would fling myself upon those fires with joy, 
since your glory, your delight is in that un found secret. 
But our children, Claes, our children ! what will become 
of them if you do not soon discover this hellish thing? 
Do you know why Pierquin came to-day ? He came for 
thirty thousand francs, which you owe and cannot pa v. 
I told him that you had the money, so that I might 
spare you the mortification of his questions; but to 
get it I must sell our family silver." 

She saw her husband's eyes grow moist, and she 
flung herself despairingly at his feet, raising up to him 
her supplicating hands. 

" My friend," she cried, "refrain awhile from these 
researches ; let us economize, let us save the money that 
may enable yon to take them up hereafter, — if, indeed, 
you cannot renounce this work. Oh ! I do not condemn 
it ; I will heat your furnaces \iyo\x ask it ; but I implore 



112 The Alkahest. 

you, do not reduce our children to beggary. Perhaps 
you cannot love them, Science may have consumed your 
heart ; but oh ! do not bequeath them a wretched life in 
place of the happiness you owe them. Motherhood has 
sometimes been too weak a power in my heart ; j^es, I 
have sometimes wished I were not a mother, that I 
might be closer to your soul, your life ! And now, to 
stifle my remorse, must I plead the cause of my children 
before j'ou, and not my own ? " 

Her hair fell loose and floated over her shoulders, her 
eyes shot forth her feelings as though they had been 
arrows. She triumphed over her rival. Balthazar lifted 
her, carried her to the sofa, and knelt at her feet. 

"Have I caused joxx such grief?" he said, in the 
tone of a man waking from a painful dream. 

" M3' poor Claes ! 3-es, and 3'ou will cause me more, 
in spite of yourself," she said, passing her hand over 
his hair. " Sit here beside me," she continued, point- 
ing to the sofa. " Ah ! I can forget it all now, now 
that you come back to us ; all can be repaired — but 
you will not abandon me again ? say that you will not ! 
M3' noble husband, grant me a woman's influence on 
your heart, that influence which is so needful to the 
happiness of suflTering artists, to the troubled minds of 
great men. You may be harsh to me, angry- with me 
if you will, but let me check you a little for 3'our good. 
I will never abuse the power if 3'ou will grant it. Be 



The Alkahest. 113 

famous, but be happy too. Do not love Chemistry bet- 
ter than you love us. Hear me, we will be gonerous ; 
we will let Science share your heart ; but oh I my Cla«j«, 
be just ; let us have our half. Tell me, is not my dis- 
interestedness subUme ? " 

She made him smile. "With the mar\-ellous art such 
women possess, she carried the momentous question 
into the regions of pleasantry where women reign. 
But though she seemed to laugh, her heart was vio- 
lently contracted and could not easily recover the quiet 
even action that was habitual to it. And j'et, as she 
saw in the eyes of Balthazar the rebirth of a love which 
was once her glory, the full return of a power she thought 
she had lost, she said to him with a smile : — 

" Believe me, Balthazar, nature made us to feel ; and 
though you may wish us to be mere electrical machines, 
yet your gases and your ethereal disengaged matters 
will never explain the gift we possess of looking into 
futurity." 

"Yes," he exclaimed, "by affinity. The power of 
vision which makes the poet, the power of deduction 
which makes the man of science, are based on invisible 
affinities, intangible, imponderable, which vulgar minds 
class as moral phenomena, whereas they are physical 
effects. The prophet sees and deduces. Unfortu- 
nately, such affinities are too rare and too obscure to 
be subjected to analysis or observation." 



114 The Alkahest. 

" Is this," she said, giving him a kiss to drive away 
the Chemistry she had so unfortunately reawakened^ 
" what you call an affinity? " 

' ' No ; it is a compound ; two substances that are 
equivalents are neutral, they produce no reaction — " 

"Oh! hush, hush," she cried, "you will make me 
die of grief. I can never bear to see my rival in the 
transports of j'our love." 

"But, my dear life, I think only of you. My work 
is for the glory of ray family. You are the basis of all 
my hopes." 

"Ah, look me in the eyes ! " 

The scene had made her as beautiful as a young 
woman ; of her whole person Balthazar saw only her 
head, rising from a cloud of lace and muslin. 

"Yes, I have done wrong to abandon you for Sci- 
ence," he said. " If I fall back into thought and pre- 
occupation, then, my Pepita, you must drag me from 
them ; I desire it." 

She lowered her eyes and let him take her hand, her 
greatest beaut}^, — a hand that was both strong and 
delicate. 

" But I ask more," she said. 

" You are so lovely, so deUghtful, you can obtain 
all," he answered. 

" I wish to destroy that laboratory, and chain up 
Science," she said, with fire in her eyes. 



TJhe Alkahest. 115 

" So be it— let Chemistry go to tlie devil ! " 
" This moment effaces all ! " she cried. " Make me 
suffer now, if you will." 

Tears came to Balthazar's eyes, as he heard these 
words. 

" You were right, love," he said. " I have seen you 
through a veil ; I have not understood you." 

"If it concerned only me," she said, " wiUingly 
would I have suffered in silence, never would I have 
raised my voice against my sovereign. But your sons 
must be thought of, Claes. If you continue to dissi- 
pate your property, no matter how glorious the object 
you have in -view the world will take little account of 
it, it wiU only blame you and yours. But surely, it is 
enough for a man of your noble nature that his wife 
has shown him a danger he did not perceive. "\Ve will 
talk of this no more," she cried, with a smile and a 
glance of coquetry'. " To-night, my Claes, let us not 
be less than happ}'." 



116 The Alkahest. 



VII. 

On the morrow of this evening so eventful for the 
Claes family, Balthazar, from whom Josephine had 
doubtless obtained some promise as to the cessation 
of his researches, remained in the parlor, and did not 
enter his laboratorj-. The succeeding day the house- 
hold prepared to move into the country, where they 
stayed for more than two months, only returning to 
town in time to prepare for the fete which Claes deter- 
mined to give, as in former years, to commemorate his 
wedding da}-. He now began bj' degrees to obtain 
proof of the disorder which his experiments and his 
indifference had brought into his business affairs. 

Madame Claes, far from irritating the wound by re- 
marking on it, continually found remedies for the evil 
that was done. Of the seven servants who customarily 
served the famil}-, there now remained onty Lemul- 
quinier, Josette the cook, and an old waiting- woman, 
named Martha, who had never left her mistress since 
the latter left her convent. It was of course impossible 
to give a fete to the whole society of Douai with so few 



The Alkahest. 117 

Bervants, but Madame Claes overcame all difflcultiea 
by proposing to send to Paris for a cook, to train tho 
gardener's son as a waiter, and to borrow Picrquiu's 
manservant. Thus the pinched circumstances of the 
family passed unnoticed by the community. 

During the twenty days of preparation for the f^to, 
Madame Claes was cleverly able to outwit her husband's 
listlessness. She commissioned him to select the rarest 
plants and flowers to decorate the grand staircase, the 
gallerj-, and the salons ; then she sent him to Dunkerque 
to order one of those monstrous fish which are the glory 
of the burgher tables in the northern departments. A 
fete like that the Claes were about to give is a serious 
affair, involving thought and care and active corre- 
spondence, in a land where traditions of hospitahty 
put the family honor so much at stake that to servants 
as well as masters a grand dinner is like a victory won 
over the guests. Oysters amved from Ostend, grouse 
were imported from Scotland, fruits came from Paris ; 
in short, not the smallest accessory was lacking to the 
hereditary luxurj-. 

A ball at the House of Claes had an importance of its 
own. The government of the departbaent was then at 
Douai, and the anniversary fete of the Claiis usually 
opened the winter season and set the fashion to the 
neighborhood. For fifteen years, Balthazar had en- 
deavored to make it a distinguished occasion, and had 



118 The Alkahest. 

succeeded so well that the fete was talked of throughout 
a circumference of sixty miles, and the toilettes, the 
guests, the smallest details, the novelties exhibited, and 
the events that took place, were discussed far and wide. 
These preparations now prevented Claes from thinking, 
for the time being, of the Alkahest. Since his return 
to social life and domestic ideas, the servant of science 
had recovered his self-love as a man, as a Fleming, as 
the master of a household, and he now took pleasure in 
the thought of surprising the whole country. He re- 
solved to give a special character to this ball by some 
exquisite novelty ; and he chose, among all other caprices 
of luxur}', the loveliest, the richest, and the most fleet- 
ing, — he turned the old mansion into a fairy bower of 
rare plants and flowers, and prepared choice bouquets 
for all the ladies. 

The other details of the fete were in keeping with this 
unheard-of luxur^^ and nothing seemed likel}" to mar the 
eflect. But the Twenty-ninth Bulletin and the news of 
the terrible disasters of the grand arm}' in Russia, and 
at the passage of the Beresina, were made known on 
the afternoon of the appointed day. A sincere and 
profound grief was felt in Douai, and those who were 
present at the fete, moved by a natural feeling of patri- 
otism, unanimousl}' declined to dance. 

Among the letters which arrived that day in Douai, 
was one for Balthazar from Monsieur de Wierzchownioi 



The Alkahest. 119 

then in Dresden and dying, he wrote, from wounds 
received in one of the late engagements. He remem- 
bered his promise, and desired to bequeath to his former 
host several ideas on the subject of the Absolute, which 
had come to him since the period of their meeting. Tlie 
letter plunged Claes into a revery which a{)parently did 
honor to his patriotism ; but his wife was not misled bv 
it. To her, this festal day brought a double mourning : 
and the ball, during which the House of Clacs sliono 
with departing lustre, was sombre and sad in spite of 
its magnificence, and the man^' choice treasures gath- 
ered by the hands of six generations, which the people 
of Douai now beheld for the last time. 

Marguerite Claes, just sixteen, was the queen of the 
day, and on this occasion her parents presented her to 
societ}'. She attracted all eyes b}- the extreme simplicity 
and candor of her air and manner, and especiall}' by the 
harmony of her form and countenance with the charac- 
teristics of her home. She was the embodiment of the 
Flemish girl whom the painters of that country* loved to 
represent, — the head perfectly rounded and full, chest- 
nut hair parted in the middle and laid smoothly on the 
brow, gray eyes with a mixture of green, handsome 
arms, natural stoutness which did not detract from her 
beauty, a timid air, and yet, on the high square brow 
2,n expression of firmness, hidden at present under an 
apparent calmness and docility. Without being sad or 



120 The Alkahest. 

melancholy, she seemed to have little natural enjoj-- 
ment. Reflectiveness, order, a sense of duty, the three 
chief expressions of Flemish nature, were the charac- 
teristics of a face that seemed cold at first sight, but to 
which the eye was recalled by a certain grace of outline 
and a placid pride which seemed the pledges of domes- 
tic happiness. By one of those freaks which physiolo- 
gists have not yet explained, she bore no likeness to 
either father or mother, but was the living image of her 
maternal great-grandmother, a Conj^ncks of Bruges, 
whose portrait, rehgiously preserved, bore witness to 
the resemblance. 

The supper gave some life to the ball. If the mili- 
tarj' disasters forbade the delights of dancing, every one 
felt that they need not exclude the pleasures of the 
table. The true patriots, however, retired early ; only 
the more indifi'erent remained, together with a few card- 
players and the intimate friends of the familj'. Little 
b}' little the brilUantly lighted house, to which all the 
notabilities of Douai had flocked, sank into silence, and 
b}' one o'clock in the morning the great gallery was de- 
serted, the lights were extinguished in one salon after 
another, and the court-yard, lately so bustling and bril- 
liant, grew dark and gloomy, — prophetic image of the 
future that lay before the family. When the Claes re- 
turned to their own appartement, Balthazar gave his 
wife the letter he had received from the Polish officer : 



The Alkahest. 121 

Josephine returned it with a mournful gesture ; she fore- 
saw the coming doom. 

From that day forth, Balthazar made no attempt to 
disguise the weariness and the depression that assailed 
him. In the mornings, after the family breakfast, ho 
played for awhile iu the parlor with little Jean, and 
talked to his daughters, who were busy with their sew- 
ing, or embroidery or lace-work ; but he soon wearied 
of the play and of the talk, and seemed at last to get 
through with them as a duty. When his wife came 
down again after dressing, she always found him sitting 
in an easy-chair lopking blankly at Marguerite and 
Felicie, quite undisturbed by the rattle of their bobbins. 
When the newspaper was brought in, he read it slowly 
like a retired merchant at a loss how to kill the time. 
Then he would get up, look at the sky through the 
window panes, go back to his chair and mend the fire 
drearily, as though he were deprived of all conscious- 
ness of his own movements by the tjrann}' of ideas. 

Madame Claes keenly regretted her defects of edu- 
cation and memor}'. It was difficult for her to susUiin 
an interesting conversation for any length of time ; per- 
haps this is alwaj's difficult between two persons wlio 
have said everything to each other, and are forced to 
seek for subjects of Interest outside the life of the 
heart, or the life of material existence. The life of 
the heart has its own moments of expansion which 



122 The Alkahest. 

need some stimulus to bring them forth ; discussions of 
material life cannot long occupy superior minds accus- 
tomed to decide promptly ; and the mere gossip of so- 
ciety is intolerable to loving natures. Consequently, 
two isolated beings who know each other thoroughly 
ought to seek their enjoyments in the higher regions 
of thought ; for it is impossible to satisf}' with paltry 
things the immensity of the relation between them. 
Moreover, when a man has accustomed himself to deal 
with great subjects, he becomes unamusable, unless he 
preserves in the depths of his heart a certain guileless 
simplicity and unconstraint which often make great 
geniuses such charming children ; but the childhood of 
the heart is a rare human phenomenon among those 
whose mission it is to see all, know all, and compre- 
hend all. 

During these first months, Madame Claes worked her 
way through this critical situation, by unwearying ef- 
forts, which love or necessit}' suggested to her. She 
tried to learn backgammon, which she had never been 
able to play, but now, from an impetus eas}' to under- 
stand, she ended by mastering it. Then she interested 
Balthazar in the education of his daughters, and asked 
him to direct their studies. All such resources were, 
however, soon exhausted. There came a time when 
Josephine's relation to Balthazar was like that of Ma- 
dame de Maintenoa to Louis XIV. ; she had to amuse 



The Alkahest. 123 

the unamusable, but without the pomps of |)owor or 
the wUes of a court which could phiy comedies like 
the sham embassies from the King of Siaiu ami the 
Shah of Persia. After wasting the revenues of France, 
Louis XIV., no longer young or successful, was reduced 
to the expedients of a family heir to raise the money he 
needed ; in the midst of his grandeur he felt his impo- 
tence, and the royal nurse who had rocked the cradles 
of his children was often at her wit's end to rock his. or 
soothe the monarch now suffering from his misuse of 
men and things, of life and God. Claes, on the con- 
trary, suffered from too much power. Stifling in the 
clutch of a single thought, he dreamed of the pomps of 
Science, of treasures for the human race, of glory for 
himself. He suffered as artists suffer in the grip of 
poverty, as Samson suffered beneath the pillars of the 
temple. The result was the same for the two sov- 
ereigns ; though the intellectual monarch was crushed 
by his inward force, the other by his weakness. 

What could Pepita do, singly, against this species of 
scientific nostalgia? After employing every means that 
family life afforded her, she called society to the rescue, 
and gave two "cafes" ever}' week. Cafes at Donni 
took the place of teas. A cafe was an assemblage 
at which, during a whole evening, the guests sipi)cd tlie 
delicious wines and liqueurs which overflow the cellars 
of that ever-blessed land, ate the Flemish dainties and 



124 The Alkahest. 

took their cafe noir or their cafe au laitfrappe^ while 
the women sang ballads, discussed each other's toilettes, 
and related the gossip of the da}'. It was a living pic- 
ture by Mieris or Terburg, without the pointed gray 
hats, the scarlet plumes, or the beautiful costumes of 
the sixteenth centiuy. And yet, Balthazar's efforts to 
pla}' the part of host, his constrained courtesy, his 
forced animation, left him the next day in a state of 
languor which showed but too plainly the depths of the 
inward ill. 

These continual fetes, weak remedies for the real evil, 
only increased it. Like branches which caught him as 
he rolled down the precipice, they retarded Claes's fall, 
but in the end he fell the heavier. Though he never 
spoke of his former occupations, never showed the least 
regret for the promise he had given not to renew his 
researches, he grew to have the melanchol}' motions, 
the feeble voice, the depression of a sick person. The 
ennui that possessed him showed at times in the very 
manner with which he picked up the tongs and built 
fantastic pyramids in the fire with bits of coal, utterl}- 
unconscious of what he was doing. When night came 
he was evidently relieved ; sleep no doubt released him 
from the importunities of thought : the next daj' he 
rose wearily to encounter another da}', — seeming to 
measure time as the tired traveller measures the desert 
he is forced to cross. 



The Alkahest. 125 

If Madame Claes knew the cause of this languor she 
endeavored not to see the extent of its ravages. Full 
of courage against the sufferings of the mind, she wn.s 
helpless against the generous impulses of the heart. 
She dared not question Balthazar when she saw him 
listening to the laughter of little Jean or the chattor of 
his girls, with the air of a man absorbed in secret 
thoughts ; but she shuddered when she saw him shake 
off his melancholy and try, with generous intent, to set-m 
cheerful, that he might not distress others. Tlic litlU- 
coquetries of the father with his daughters, or his games 
with little Jean, moistened the eyes of the poor wife, 
who often left the room to hide the feelings that heroic 
effort caused her, — a heroism the cost of which is well 
understood by women, a generosity that well-nigh breaks 
their heart. At such times Madame Claijs longed to say, 
" Kill me, and do what 3-ou will ! " 

Little b}' little Balthazai-'s eyes lost their fire and took 
the glaucous opaque tint which overspreads the eyes of 
old men. His attentions to his wife, his manner of 
speaking, his whole bearing, grew heav}' and inert. 
These sj-mptoms became more marked towards the end 
of April, terrifying Madame Claes, to whom the sight 
was now intolerable, and who had all along re- 
proached herself a thousand times while she admired 
the Flemish loyalty which kept her husband faithful 
to his promise. 



126 The Alkahest. 

At last, one day when Balthazar seemed more de« 
pressed than ever, she hesitated no longer ; she resolved 
to sacrifice everything and bring him back to life. 

" Dear friend," she said, " I release you from your 
promise." 

Balthazar looked at her in amazement. 

" You are thinking of your researches, are you not?" 
she continued. 

He answered by a gesture of startling eagerness. Far 
from remonstrating, Madame Claes, who had had leisure 
to sound the abyss into which they were about to fall 
together, took his hand and pressed it, smiling. 

"Thank you," she said; "now I am sure of my 
power. You sacrificed more than 3-our life to me. In 
future, be the sacrifices mine. Though I have sold 
some of my diamonds, enough are left, with those my 
brother gave me, to get the necessary money for 3'our 
experiments. I intended those jewels for my daugh- 
ters, but your glory shall sparkle in their stead ; and, 
besides, you will some day replace them with other and 
finer diamonds." 

The joy that suddenly lighted her husband's face was 
like a death-knell to the wife : she saw, with anguish, 
that the man's passion was stronger than himself 
Claes had faith in his work which enabled him to walk 
without faltering on a path which, to his wife, was the 
edge of a precipice. For him faith, for her doubt, — ■ 



The Alkahest. 127 

for her the heavier burden : does not the woman 
ever suffer for the two? At this moment she chose 
to believe in his success, that she might justify to 
herself her connivance in the probable wreck of Uicir 
fortunes. 

" The love of all m}- life can be no recomiK'nse for 
your devotion, Pepita," said Claes, deeply moved. 

He had scarce! v uttered the words when Mareruerito 
and Felicie entered the room and wished him gooil- 
morning. Madame Claes lowered her e3'es anil re- 
mained for a moment speechless in presence of her 
children, whose future she had just sacrificed to a de- 
lusion ; her husband, on the contrary, took them on his 
knees, and talked to them gayl}', delighted to give vent 
to the joy that choked him. 

From this day Madame Claes shared the impassioned 
life of her husband. The future of her children, their 
father's credit, were two motives as powerful to her as 
glory and science were to Claes. After the diamonds 
were sold in Paris, and the purchase of chemicals was 
again begun, the unhappy woman never knew another 
hour's peace of mind. The demon of Science and the 
frenzy of research which consumed her husbaml now 
agitated her own mind ; she lived in a state of contin- 
ual expectation, and sat half-lifeless for days together 
in the deep armchair, paralyzed by the very violence 
of her wishes, which, finding no food, like those of 



128 The Alkahest. 

Balthazar, in the daily hopes of the laboratory, tor- 
mented her spirit and aggravated her doubts and fears. 
Sometimes, blaming herself for compliance with a pas- 
sion whose object was futile and condemned by the 
Church, she would rise, go to the window on the court- 
yard and gaze with terror at the chimney of the labora- 
tory. If the smoke were rising, an expression of despair 
came into her face, a conflict of thoughts and feelings 
raged in her heart and mind. She beheld her child- 
ren's future fleeing in that smoke, but — was she not 
saving their father's life? was it not her first duty to 
make him happy? This last thought calmed her for a 
moment. 

She obtained the right to enter the laboratory and 
remain there ; but even this melancholy satisfaction 
was soon renounced. Her sufferings were too keen 
when she saw that Balthazar took no notice of her, or 
seemed at times annoyed by her presence ; in that fatal 
place she went through paroxysms of jealous impa- 
tience, angry desires to destro3^ the building, — a living 
death of untold miseries. Lemulquinier became to her 
a species of barometer : if she heard him whistle as he 
laid the breakfast-table or the dinner-table, she guessed 
that Balthazar's experiments were satis factor}', and 
there were prospects of a coming success ; if, on the 
other hand, the man were morose and gloomy, she 
looked at him and trembled, — Balthazar must surely b« 



The Alkahest. 1-29 

dissatisfied. Mistress and valet ended bv nndcrstand- 
ing each other, notwithstanding the proud reson-e of 
the one and the reluctant submission of the other. 

Feeble and defenceless against the terrible prostra- 
tions of thought, the poor woman at last gave way 
under the alternations of hope and despair wliich in- 
creased the distress of the loving wife, and the anxieties 
of the mother trembling for her children. She now 
practised the doleful silence which formerly chilled her 
heart, not observing the gloom that per\aded the house, 
where whole days went by in that melancholy parlor 
without a smile, often without a word. Led by sad 
maternal foresight, she trained her daughters to house- 
hold work, and tried to make them skilful in womanly 
employments, that they might have the means of living 
if destitution came. The outward calm of this quiet 
home covered terrible agitations. Towards the end of 
the summer Balthazar had used the money derived from 
the diamonds, and was twent}' thousand francs in debt 
to Messieurs Protcz and Chiffreville. 

In August, 1813, about a year after the scene with 
which this history' begins, although Claes had made a 
few valuable experiments, for which, unfortuuati'ly. he 
cared but little, his efforts had been without result as to 
the real object of his researches. There came a ilay 
when he ended the whole series of experiments, and the 
sense of his impotence crushed him ; the certainty oi 

9 



130 The Alkahest. 

having fruitlessly wasted enormous sums of money 
drove him to despair. It was a frightful catastrophe. 
He left the garret, descended slowly to the parlor, and 
threw himself into a chair in the midst of his children, 
remaining motionless for some minutes as though dead, 
making no answer to the questions his wife pressed 
upon him. Tears came at last to his relief, and he 
rushed to his own chamber that no one might witness 
his despair. 

Josephine followed him and drew him into her own 
room, where, alone with her, Balthazar gave vent to 
his anguish. These tears of a man, these broken words 
of the hopeless toiler, these bitter regrets of the husband 
and father, did Madame Claes more harm than all her 
past sufferings. The victim consoled the executioner. 
When Balthazar said to her in a tone of dreadful con- 
viction : " I am a wretch ; I have gambled away the 
lives of m}' children, and your life ; you can have no 
happiness unless I kill myself," — the words struck 
home to her heart; she knew her husband's nature 
enough to fear he might at once act out the despairing 
wish : an inward convulsion, disturbing the very sources 
of life itself, seized her, and was all the more dangerous 
because she controlled its violent effects beneath a de- 
ceptive calm of manner. 

" My friend," she said, " I have consulted, not Pier- 
quin, whose friendship does not hinder him from feeling 



The Alkahest. 131 

some secret satisfaction at our ruin, but an old man 
who has been as good to me as a father. The Abbe- de 
Solis, m}- confessor, has shown me how we can still 
save ourselves from ruin. lie came to see the ijittures. 
The value of those in the gallery is enough to pa\- the 
sums you have borrowed on your property, and also all 
that you owe to Messieurs Protez and Chiffreville, who 
have no doubt an account against you." 

Claes made an affirmative sign and bowed his hoad, 
the hair of which was now white. 

" Monsieur de Solis knows the Happc and Dunckcr 
families of Amsterdam ; they have a mania for pictures, 
and are anxious, like all parvenus, to display a luxury 
which ought to belong only to the old families : he 
thinks the}' will pay the full value of ours. By this 
means we can recover our independence, and out of the 
purchase money, which will amount to over one hundred 
thousand ducats, you will have enough to continue the 
experiments. Your daughters and I will be contA^nt 
with very little ; we can fill up the empty frames with 
other pictures in course of time and by economy : 
meantime yo\x will be happy." 

Balthazar raised his head and looked at his wife with 
a joy that was mingled with fear. Their roles were 
changed. The wife was the protector of the husband. 
He, so tender, he, whose heart was so at one with liis 
Pepita's, now held her in his arms without perceiving the 



132 The Alkahest. 

horrible convulsion that made her palpitate, and even 
shook her hair and her lips with a nervous shudder. 

" I dared not tell you," he said, " that between me 
and the Unconditioned, the Absolute, scarcely a hair's 
breadth intervenes. To gasify metals, I only need to 
find the means of submitting them to intense heat in 
some centre where the pressure of the atmosphere is 
nil, — in short, in a vacuum." 

Madame Claiis could not endure the egotism of this 
repl3^ She expected a passionate acknowledgment of 
her sacrifices — she received a problem in chemistr}' ! 
The poor woman left her husband abruptly and returned 
to the parlor, where she fell into a chair between her 
frightened daughters, and burst into tears. Marguerite 
and Felicie took her hands, kneeling one on each side 
of her, not knowing the cause of her grief, and asking 
at intervals, " Mother, what is it? '* 

" My poor children, I am dying ; I feel it." 

The answer struck home to Marguerite's heart ; she 
saw, for the first time on her mother's face, the signs 
of that peculiar pallor which only comes on olive-tinted 
skins. 

"Martha, Martha!" cried Felicie, "come quickly; 
mamma wants you." 

The old duenna ran in from the kitchen, and as soon 
as she saw the livid hue of the dusky skin usually high- 
colored, she cried out in Spanish, — 



The Alkahest. I33 

" Body of Christ ! madame is dvin*' ! " 

Then she rushed precipitately back, told Josettc to 
heat water for a footbath, and returned to the parlor. 

" Don't alarm Monsieur Claes ; say nothing to him, 
Martha," said her mistress. " My ix)or dear girls," 
she added, pressing Marguerite and Felicie to her heart 
with a despairing action ; " I wish I could live lonir 
enough to see you married and happy. JSlartha," she 
continued, "tell Lemulquinier to go to Monsieur de 
Solis and ask him in my name to come here." 

The shock of this attack extended to the kitchen. 
Josette and Martha, both devoted to Madame Clacs 
and her daughters, felt the blow in their own affections. 
Martha's dreadful announcement, — "Madame is dy- 
ing ; monsieur must have killed her ; get ready a 
mustard-bath," — forced certain exclamations from 
Josette, which she launched at Lemulquinier. He. cold 
and impassive, went on eating at the corner of a table 
before one of the windows of the kitchen, where all was 
kept as clean as the boudoir of a fine lady. 

" I knew how it would end," said Josette, glancing 
at the valet and mounting a stool to take down a cop- 
per kettle that shone like gold. "There's no motht-r 
could quietly stand by and see a father amusing himself 
by chopping up a fortune like his into sausage-meat" 

Josette, whose head was covered by a round cap with 
crimped borders, which made it look like a German 



134 The Alkahest. 

nut-cracker, cast a sour look at Lemulquinier, which 
the greenish tinge of her prominent little ej-es made 
almost venomous. The old valet shrugged his shoulders 
with a motion worth}' of Mirabeau when irritated ; then 
he filled his large mouth with bread and butter sprinkled 
with chopped onion. 

" Instead of thwarting monsieur, madame ought to 
give him more money," he said ; " and then we should 
soon be rich enough to swim in gold. There 's not the 
thickness of a farthing between us and — " 

" Well, you 've got twentj' thousand francs laid by ; 
whj' don't 3'ou give 'em to monsieur ? he 's your master, 
and if j'ou are so sure of his doings — " 

" You don't know anj^thing about them, Josette. 
Mind your pots and pans, and heat the water," re- 
marked the old Fleming, interrupting the cook. 

" I know enough to know there used to be several 
thousand ounces of silver-ware about this house which 
you and your master have melted up ; and if j'ou are 
allowed to have your way, 3'ou'll make ducks and 
drakes of everj-thing till there 's nothing left." 

"And monsieur," added Martha, entering the kitchen, 
" will kill madame, just to get rid of a woman who re- 
strains him and won't let him swallow up everything 
he 's got. He 's possessed by the devil ; anybody' can 
see that. You don't risk your soul in helping him, 
Mulquinier, because you have n't got any ; look at 



The Alkahest. I35 

you ! sitting there like a bit of ice when we are aU 
in such distress; the young ladies are crving like 
two Magdalens. Go and fetch Monsieur TAbbe de 
Solis." 

" I've got something to do for monsieur. He told 
me to put the laboratory in order," saiil the valet 
"Besides, it's too far — go yourself." 

" Just hear the brute ! " cried Martha. " Pray who 
is to give madame her foot-bath? do you want her to 
die? she has got a rush of blood to the head." 

" Mulquinier," said Marguente, coming into the ser- 
vants' hall, which adjoined the kitchen, " on your way 
back from Monsieur de Solis, call at Dr. Pierquin'a 
house and ask him to come here at once." 

" Ha ! you 've got to go now," said Josette. 

" Mademoiselle, monsieur told me to put the labora- 
tory in order," said Lemulquinier, facing the two women 
and looking them down, with a despotic air. 

"Father," said Marguerite, to Monsieur Clacs, who 
was just then descending the stairs, " can you let Mul- 
quinier do an errand for us in town ? " 

" Now you 're forced to go, you old barbarian I " cried 
Martha, as she heard Monsieur Claes put Mulquinier 
at his daughter's bidding. 

The lack of good-will and devotion shown by the old 
valet for the family whom he served was a fruitful causo 
of quarrel between the two women and Lemulquinier, 



136 The Alkahest. 

whose cold-heartedness had the effect of increasing the 
loyal attachment of Josette and the old duenna. 

This dispute, apparently so paltrj^, was destined to 
influence the future of the Claes family when, at a later 
period, they needed succor in misfortune. 



The Alkahest. 187 



VIII. 

Balthazar was again so absorbed that he did not 
notice Josephine's condition. He took Jean upon his 
knee and trotted him mechanicall\', pondering, no 
doubt, the problem he now had the means of solving. 
He saw them bring the footbath to his wife, who was 
still in the parlor, too weak to rise from the low chair 
in which she was l3'ing ; he gazed abstractedly at his 
daughters now attending on their mother, without in- 
quiring the cause of their tender solicitude. When 
Marguerite or Jean attempted to speak aloud, Ma- 
dame Claes hushed them and pointed to Balthazar. 
Such a scene was of a nature to make a young girl 
think ; and Marguerite, placed as she was between 
her father and mother, was old enough and sensible 
enough to weigh their conduct. 

There comes a moment in the private life of every 
famil}' when the children, voluntarily or involuntarily, 
judge their parents. Madame Claes foresaw the dan- 
gers of that moment. Her love for Balthazar impelled 
her to justify in Marguerite's eyes conduct that might, 



138 The Alkahest. 

to the upright mind of a girl of sixteen, seem faulty in 
a father. The verj' respect which she showed at this 
moment for her husband, making herself and her con- 
dition of no account that nothing might disturb his 
meditation, impressed her children with a sort of awe 
of the paternal majesty. Such self-devotion, however 
infectious it might be, only increased Marguerite's ad- 
miration for her mother, to whom she was more par- 
ticularly bound by the close intimacy of their daily lives. 
This feeling was based on the intuitive perception of 
sufferings whose causes naturally occupied the young 
girl's mind. No human power could have hindered 
some chance word dropped by Martha, or by Josette, 
from enlightening her as to the real reasons for the 
condition of her home during the last four years. Not- 
withstanding Madame Claes's reserve. Marguerite dis- 
covered slowl}', thread by thread, the clue to the 
domestic drama. She was soon to be her mother's 
active confidante, and later, under other cu'cumstances, 
a formidable judge. 

Madame Claes's watchful care now centred upon her 
eldest daughter, to whom she endeavored to communi- 
cate her own self-devotion towards Balthazar. The 
firmness and sound judgment which she recognized in 
the young girl made her tremble at the thought of a 
possible struggle between father and daughter when- 
ever her own death should make the latter mistress of 



The Alkahest. 139 

the household. The poor woman had reached a [>o\ui 
where she dreaded the consequences of her death far 
more than death itself. Her tender solicitude for Bal- 
thazar showed itself in the resolution she had this dav 
taken. B\- freeing his property from incumbrance she 
secured his independence, and prevented all future dis- 
putes b}^ separating his interests from lliose of her 
children. She hoped to see him happy until she closeil 
her eyes on earth, and she studied to transmit the ten- 
derness of her own heart to that of Marcrueritc, trustiii<T 
that his daughter might continue to be to him an angel 
of love, while exercising over the family a protecting 
and conservative authority. Might she not thus shed 
the light of her love upon her dear ones from bej-ond the 
grave ? Nevertheless, she was not willing to lower the 
father in the e^'cs of his daughter b}' initiating her 
into the secret dangers of his scientific passion before 
it became necessary to do so. She studied Marguerite's 
soul and character, seeking to discover if the girl's own 
nature would lead her to be a mother to her brothers 
and her sister, and a tender, gentle helpmeet to her 
father. 

Madame Claes's last days were thus embittered l»y 
fears and mental disquietudes which she dared not con- 
fide to others. Conscious that the recent scene had 
struck her death-blow, she turned her thoughts wholly 
to the future. Balthazar, meanwhile, now permanently 



140 The Alkahest 

unfitted for the care of property or the interests of do 

mestie life, thought only of the Absolute. 

The heavy silence that reigned in the parlor was 
broken only by the monotonous beating of Balthazar's 
foot, which he continued to trot, wholly unaware that 
Jean had slid from his knee. Marguerite, who was 
sitting beside her mother and watching the changes on 
that pallid, convulsed face, turned now and again to 
her father, wondering at his indifference. Presently 
the street-door clanged, and the family saw the Abb^ 
de Solis leaning on the arm of his nephew and slowly 
crossing the court-yard. 

" Ah ! there is Monsieur Emmanuel," said Felicie. 

" That good young man ! " exclaimed Madame Claes ; 
" I am glad to welcome him." 

Marguerite blushed at the praise that escaped her 
mother's lips. For the last two days a remembrance 
of the 3'oung man had stirred mysterious feelings in her 
heart, and wakened in her mind thoughts that had lain 
dormant. During the visit made by the Abbe de Soha 
to Madame Claes on the occasion of his examining the 
pictures, there happened certain of those imperceptible 
events which wield so great an influence upon life : and 
their results were sufficientl}' important to necessitate a 
brief sketch of the two personages now first introduced 
into the history of this familj'. 

It was a matter of principle with Madame Clatis to 



The Alkahest. 141 

perform tbe duties of her religion privately Her cod- 
fessor, who wag almost unknown in the famUy, now 
entered the house for the second time only ; but thtre, 
as elsewhere, every one was impressed with a sort of 
tender admiration at the aspect of the uude and his 
nephew. 

The Abb^ de Soils was an octogenarian, with silvery 
hair, and a withered face from which the vitality seemed 
to have retreated to the eyes. He walked with dUli- 
culty, for one of his shrunken legs ended in a painfully 
deformed foot, which was cased in a species of velvet 
bag, and obliged him to use a crutch when the arm of 
his nephew was not at hand. His bent figure and de- 
crepit body conveyed the impression of a delicate, sulFer- 
ing nature, governed by a will of u-on and the spirit of 
religious purity. This Spanish priest, who was remark- 
able for his vast learning, his sincere piety, and a wide 
knowledge of men and things, had been successively a 
Dominican friar, the grand phiitencier of Toledo, and 
the vicar-general of the archbishopric of Malines. If 
the French Revolution had not intervened, the influence 
of the Casa-Real family would have made him one of 
the highest dignitaries of the Church ; but the grief he 
felt for the death of the young duke, Madame Claes's 
brother, who had been his pupil, turned him from active 
life, and he now devoted himself to the education of his 
nephew, who was made an orphan at an early age. 



142 The Alkahest. 

After the conquest of Belgium, the Abb^ de Solis 
settled at Douai to be near Madame Claes. From his 
youth up he had professed an enthusiasm for Saint 
Theresa which, together with the natural bent of his 
mind, led him to the mj^stical side of Christianit3\ 
Finding in Flanders, where Mademoiselle Bourignon 
and the writings of the Quietists and Illuminati made 
the greatest number of prosel3"tes, a flock of Catholics 
devoted to those ideas, he remained there, — all the 
more willingl}- because he was looked up to as a patri- 
arch by this particular communion, which continued to 
follow the doctrines of the Mj-stics notwithstanding 
the censures of the Church upon Fenelon and Madame 
Guyon. His morals were rigid, his life exemplary, and 
he was believed to have visions. In spite of his own 
detachment from the things of life, his aflection for his 
nephew made him careful of the young man's interests. 
When a work of charity was to be done, the old abbe 
put the faithful of his flock under contribution before 
having recourse to his own means ; and his patriarchal 
authority was so well established, his motives so pure, 
his discernment so rarely at fault, that every one was 
read}'^ to answer his appeal. To give an idea of the 
contrast between the uncle and the nephew, we may 
compare the old man to a willow on the borders of a 
stream, hollowed to a skeleton and barel}' alive, and the 
young man to a sweet-brier clustering with roses, whose 



The Alkahest. I43 

erect and graceful stems spring up about the hoary 
trunk of the old tree as if they would support it. 

Emmanuel de Solis, rigidly brought up by his u„de, 
who kept him at his side as a mother keeps her daugh- 
ter, was full of delicate sensibility, of half-dreamy 1„- 
nocence, —those fleeting flowers of youth which bloom 
perennially in souls that are nourished on religious prin- 
ciples. The old priest had checked all sensuous emo- 
tions in his pupil, preparing him for the trials of life by 
constant study and a discipUne that was almost clois- 
teral. Such an education, which would hmnoh the 
youth unstained upon the world and render him happy, 
provided he were fortunate in his earliest affections, 
bad endowed him with a purity of spirit which gave to 
his person something of the charm that surrounds a 
maiden. His modest eyes, veiling a strong and cou- 
rageous soul, sent forth a light that vibrated in the 
soul as the tones of a crystal bell sound their undula- 
tions on the ear. His face, though regular, was ex- 
pressive, and charmed the eye with its clear-cut outline, 
the harmony of its lines, and the perfect repose which 
came of a heart at peace. All was harmonious. His 
black hair, his brown eyes and eyebrows, heightened 
the efl!ect of a white skin and a brilliant color. His 
voice was such as might have been expected from his 
beautiful face ; and something feminine in his move- 
ments accorded well with the melody of its tones and 



144 The Alkahest. 

with the tender brightness of his eyes. He seemed un- 
aware of the charm he exercised by his modest silence, 
the half-melancholy reserve of his manner, and the re- 
spectful attentions he paid to his uncle. 

Those who saw the young man as he watched the un- 
certain steps of the old abb^, and altered his own to suit 
their devious course, looking for obstructions that might 
trip his uncle's feet and guiding him to a smoother way, 
could not fail to recognize in Emmanuel de Solis the 
generous nature which makes the human being a divine 
creation. There was something noble in the love that 
never criticised his uncle, in the obedience that never 
cavilled at the old man's orders ; it seemed as though 
there were prophecy in the gracious name his godmother 
had given him. When the abbe gave proof of his Do- 
minican despotism, in their own home or in the presence 
of others, Emmanuel would sometimes lift his head with 
so much dignity, as if to assert his metal should any 
other man assail him, that men of honor were moved 
at the sight like artists before a glorious picture ; for 
noble sentiments ring as loudly in the soul from living 
incarnations as from the imagery of art. 

Emmanuel had accompanied his uncle when the latter 
came to examine the pictures of the House of Claes. 
Hearing from Martha that the Abbe de Solis was in the 
gallery. Marguerite, anxious to see so celebrated a man, 
invented an excuse to join her mother and gratify her 



The Alkahest. \\ 



o 



curiosity. Entering hastily, witli the heedless gaycty 
young gii-ls assume at times to hide their wishes, she 
encountered near the old abbe, clothed in black and 
looking decrepit and cadaverous, the fresh, delii^btful 
face of a young man. The naive glances of the youth- 
ful pair expressed their mutual astonishment. Mar- 
guerite and Emmanuel had no doubt seen each other 
in their dreams. Both lowered their eyes and raised 
them again with one impulse; each, by the action, 
made the same avowal. Marguerite took her mother's 
arm, and spoke to her to cover her confusion and find 
shelter under the maternal wing, turning her neck with 
a swan-like motion to keep sight of Emmanuel, who 
still supported his uncle on his arm. The light was 
cleverly arranged to give due value to the pictures, and 
the half-obscuritj' of the galler}- encouraged those fur- 
tive glances which are the joy of timid natures. Neither 
went so far, even in thought, as the first note of love ; 
yet both felt the mysterious trouble which stirs the 
heart, and is jealousl}' kept secret in our youth from 
fastidiousness or modest}'. 

The first impression which forces a sensibility hitherto 
suppressed to overflow its borders, is followed in all 
j-oung people by the same half-stupefied amazement 
which the first sounds of music produce upon a child. 
Some children laugh and think ; others do not laugli till 
they have thought ; but those whose hearts arc called to 

10 



146 The Alkahest. 

Uve by poetry or love, listen stilly and hear the melody 
with a look where pleasure flames already, and the 
search for the infinite begins. If, from an irresistible 
feeling, we love the places where our childhood first 
perceived the beauties of harmony, if we remember with 
delight the musician, and even the instrument, that 
taught them to us, how much more shall we love the 
being who reveals to us the music of life? The first 
heart in which we draw the breath of love, — is it not 
our home, our native land ? Marguerite and Emmanuel 
were, each to each, that Voice of music which wakes a 
sense, that hand which lifts the misty veil, and reveals 
the distant shores bathed in the fires of noonday. 

When Madame Claes paused before a picture by 
Guido representing an angel. Marguerite bent forward 
to see the impression it made upon Emmanuel, and 
Emmanuel looked at Marguerite to compare the mute 
thought on the canvas with the living thought beside 
him. This involuntary and delightful homage was un- 
derstood and treasured. The old abbe gravely praised 
the picture, and Madame Claes answered him, but the 
youth and the maiden were silent. 

Such was their first meeting : the mysterious light of 
the picture gallery, the stillness of the old house, the 
presence of their elders, all contributed to trace upon 
their hearts the delicate lines of this vaporous mirage. 
The manj' confused thoughts that surged in Marguerite's 



The Alkahest. 147 

mind grew calm and lay like a limpid ocean traversed 
by a luminous ray when Emmanuel murmured a few 
farewell words to Madame Claes. That voice, whoso 
fresh and mellow tone sent nameless delights into her 
heart, completed the revelation that had come to her, 
— a revelation which Emmanuel, were he able, should 
cherish to his own profit ; for it often happens that the 
man whom destiny employs to waken love in the heart 
of a young girl is ignorant of his work and leaves it 
unfinished. Marguerite bowed confusedh* ; her true 
farewell was in the glance which seemed unwilling to 
lose so pure and lovelj' a vision. Like a chikl she 
wanted her melod^'. Their parting took place at the 
foot of the old staircase near the parlor ; and when 
Marguerite re-entered the room she watched the uncle 
and the nephew till the street-door closed upon thciu. 

Madame Claes had been so occupied with the serious 
matters which caused her conference with the abbt- that 
she did not on this occasion observe her daughter's 
manner. When Monsieur de Solis came again to tlie 
house on the occasion of her illness, she was too vio- 
lently agitated to notice the color tliat rushed into Mar- 
guerite's face and betrayed the tumult of a virgin heart 
conscious of its first joy. By the time the old abbe was 
announced, Marguerite had taken up her sewing and ai>- 
peared to give it such attention that she bowed to the 
uncle and nephew without looking at them. Monsieur 



148 The Alkahest. 

Claes mechanically returned their salatation and left 
the room with the air of a man called away by his 
occupations. The good Dominican sat down beside 
Madame Claes and looked at her with one of those 
searching glances by which he penetrated the minds of 
others ; the sight of Monsieur Claes and his wife was 
enough to make him aware of a catastrophe. 

" My children," said the mother, " go into the 
garden ; Marguerite, show Emmanuel your father's 
tulips." 

Marguerite, half abashed, took F^licie's arm and 
looked at the young man, who blushed and caught up 
little Jean to cover his confusion. When all four were 
in the garden, Felicie and Jean ran to the other side, 
leaving Marguerite, who, conscious that she was alone 
with young de Soils, led him to the pyramid of tulips, 
aiTanged precisely in the same manner year after year 
by Lemulquinier. 

" Do you love tulips?" asked Marguerite, after stand- 
ing for a moment in deep silence, — a silence Emmanuel 
seemed Uttle disposed to break. 

" Mademoiselle, these flowers are beautiful, but to 
love them we must perhaps have a taste for them, and 
know how to understand their beauties. They dazzle 
me. Constant study in the gloomy little chamber in 
which I live, close to my uncle, makes me prefer those 
flowers that are softer to the e^'e." 



The Alkahett. 149 

Saying these words he glanced at Marguerite ; but 
Ihe look, full as it was of confused desires, contaancd 
no allusion to the lily whiteness, the sweet serenity, the 
tender coloring which made her face a flower. 

"Do you work very hard?" she asked, leading him 
to a wooden seat with a back, painted green. " Here," 
she continued, " the tulips are not so close ; they wUl 
not tire j'our eyes. Yes, you are right, those colors are 
dazzling ; they give pain." 

"Do I work hard?" replied the young man after a 
short sOence, as he smoothed the gravel with his foot. 
"Yes; I work at many things. My uncle wished to 
make me a priest." 

" Oh ! " exclaimed Marguerite, naively. 

"I resisted; I felt no vocation for it. But it re- 
quired great courage to oppose my uncle's wishes. lie 
is so good, he loves me so much ! Quite recently he 
bought a substitute to save me from the conscription — 
me, a poor orphan ! " 

"What do you mean to be?" asked Marguerite; 
then, immediately checking herself as though she would 
unsay the words, she added with a pretty gesture, " I 
beg your pardon ; 3'ou must think me very inquisitive." 

"Oh, mademoiselle," said Emmanuel, looking at her 
with tender admiration, "except my uncle, no one ever 
asked me that question. I am studying to be a 
teacher. I cannot do otherwise; I am not rich. If 



150 The Alkahest. 

I were principal of a college-school in Flanders I 
should earn enough to live moderatel}-, and I might 
marry some simple woman whom I could love. That 
is the life I look forward to. Perhaps that is why I 
prefer a daisy in the meadows to these splendid tulips, 
whose purple and gold and rubies and amethysts be- 
token a life of luxury, just as the daisy is emblematic 
of a sweet and patriarchal life, — the Hfe of a poor 
teacher like me." 

" I have always called the daisies marguerites," she 
said. 

Emmanuel colored deeply and sought an answer 
from the sand at his feet. Embarrassed to choose 
among the thoughts that came to him, which he feared 
were silly, and disconcerted by his delay in answering, 
he said at last, " I dai-ed not pronounce your name" 
— then he paused. 

" A teacher? " she said. 

" Mademoiselle, I shall be a teacher only as a means 
of living : I shall undertake great works which will 
make me nobly useful. I have a strong taste for his- 
torical researches." 

" Ah ! " 

That " ah ! " so full of secret thoughts added to his 
confusion ; he gave a foolish laugh and said : — 

" You make me talk of myself when I ought only 
to speak of you." 



The Alkahest. 151 

" Mj mother and your uncle must Lave finisheil their 
conversation, I think," said Marguerite, lookiuir UMo 
the parlor through the windows. 

" Your mother seems to me greatly changed," said 
Emmanuel. 

" She suffers, but she will not U'll us the cause 
of her sufferings ; and we can only try to share them 
•with her." 

Madame Claes had, in fact, just ended a delicate con- 
sultation which involved a case of conscience tlie Ahlnj 
de Solis alone could decide. Foreseeing the utter ruin 
of the family, she wished to retain, unknown to Hal- 
thazar who paid no attention to his business affairs, 
part of the price of the pictures which Monsieur de 
Solis had undertaken to sell in Holland, inti'uding to 
hold it secretly in reserve against the day when j)ov- 
erty should overtake her children. AN'ith much delib- 
eration, and after weighing every circumstance, the old 
Dominican approved the act as one of prudence. He 
took his leave to prepare at once for the sale, which he 
engaged to make secretly, so as not to injure Monsieur 
Claes in the estimation of others. 

The next day Monsieur de Solis despatched his nephew, 
armed with letters of introduction, to Amsterdam, where 
Emmanuel, delighted to do a service to the Claes family, 
succeeded in selling all the pictures in the gallery to the 
noted bankers Happe and Duncker for the osteujuibl^ 



152 The Alkahest. 

sum of eighty-five thousand Dutch ducats and fifteen 
thousand more which were paid over secretly to Ma- 
dame Claes. The pictures were so well known that 
nothing was needed to complete the sale but an answer 
from Balthazar to the letter which Messieurs Happe 
and Duncker addressed to him. Emmanuel de Solis 
was commissioned by Claes to receive the price of 
the pictures, which were thereupon packed and sent 
away secretl}', to conceal the sale from the people of 
Douai, 

Towards the end of September, Balthazar paid off all 
the sums that he had borrowed, released his property 
from encumbrance, and resumed his chemical researches ; 
but the House of Claes was deprived of its noblest orna- 
ment. Blinded by his passion, the master showed no 
regret ; he felt so sure of repairing the loss that in sell- 
ing the pictures he reserved a right of redemption. In 
Josephine's eyes a hundred pictures were as nothing 
compared to domestic happiness and the satisfaction 
of her husband's mind ; moreover, she refilled the gal- 
ler}' with other paintings, taken from the reception- 
rooms, and to conceal the gaps which these left in 
the front house, she changed the arrangement of the 
furniture. 

When Balthazar's debts were all paid he had about 
two hundred thousand francs with which to carry on 
his experiments. The Abbe de Solis and his nephew 



The Alkahest. I53 

took charge secretly of the fifteen thousand ducats re- 
served by Madame Claes. To increase that sum, the 
Abb^ sold the Dutch ducats, to which the events of the 
Continental war had given a commercial value. One 
hundred and sixty-five thousand francs were buried in 
the cellar of the house in which the abbe and his nephew 
resided. 

Madame Claes had the melancholy happiness of see- 
ing her husband incessantly busy and satisfied for nearly 
eight months. But the shock he had lately given her 
was too severe ; she sank into a state of languor and 
debiUty which steadily increased. Balthazar was now 
so completely absorbed in science that neither the re- 
verses which had overtaken France, nor the first full 
of Napoleon, nor the return of the Bourbons, drew him 
from his laboratory' ; he was neither husband, father, 
nor citizen, — solely chemist. 

Towards the close of 1814 Madame Claes declined 
so rapidl}' that she was no longer able to leave her bed. 
Unwilling to vegetate in her own chamber, the scene 
of so much happiness, where the memory of vanished 
joys forced involuntary comparisons with the present 
and depressed her, she moved into the parlor. The 
doctors encouraged this wish by declaring the room 
more air}', more cheerful, and therefore better suited 
to her condition. The bed in which the unfortunate 
woman ended her life was placed between the fireplace 



154 The Alkahest. 

and a window looking on tlie garden. There she passed 
her last da^'s, sacredly occupied in training the souls of 
her young daughters, striving to leave within them the 
fire of her own. Conjugal love, deprived of its mani- 
festations, allowed maternal love to have its vfny. The 
mother now seemed the more delightful because her 
motherhood had blossomed late. Like all generous 
persons, she passed through sensitive phases of feeling 
which she mistook for remorse. Believing that she had 
defrauded her children of the tenderness that should 
have been theirs, she sought to redeem those imaginary 
wrongs ; bestowing attentions and tender cares which 
made her precious to them ; she longed to make her 
children live, as it were, within her heart ; to shelter 
them beneath her feeble wings ; to cherish them enough 
in the few remaining days to redeem the time during 
which she had neglected them. The sufferings of her 
mind gave to her words and her caresses a glowing 
warmth that issued from her soul. Her eyes caressed 
her children, her voice with its yearning intonations 
touched their hearts, her hand showered blessings on 
their heads. 



The Alkahest. 155 



IX 



The good people of Douai were not surprised that 
visitors were no longer received at the House of Clai-s, 
and that Balthazar gave no more fetes on the auniver- 
sar}' of his marriage. Madame Claes's state of health 
seemed a sufficient reason for the change, and thu 
pa3'ment of her husband's debts put a stop to the cur- 
rent gossip ; moreover, the political vicissitudes to 
which Flanders was subjected, the war of the llundred- 
da3s, and the occupation of the Allied armies, put the 
chemist and his researches completel}* out of people's 
minds. During those two years Douai was so often on 
the point of being taken, it was so constantly occupied 
either by the French or b}' the enemy, so many foreign- 
ers came there, so many of the country-people sought 
refuge within its walls, so many lives were in peril, so 
many catastrophes occun-ed, that each man thought only 
of himself. 

The Abbe de Soils and his nephew, and the two 
Pierquins, doctor and lawyer, were the only persons 
who now visited Madame Claes ; for whom the wiuUr 
of 1814-1815 was a long and dreary death-scene. Her 



156 The Alkahest. 

husband rarely came to see her. It is true that after 
dinner he remained some hours in the parlor, near her 
bed ; but as she no longer had the strength to keep up 
a conversation, he merely said a few words, invariably 
the same, sat down, spoke no more, and a dreary 
silence settled down upon the room. The monotony 
of this existence was broken only on the days when the 
Abbe de SoUs and his nephew passed the evening with 
Madame Claes. 

While the abb^ played backgammon with Balthazar, 
Marguerite talked with Emmanuel by the bedside of her 
mother, who smiled at their innocent joy, not allowing 
them to see how painful and yet how soothing to her 
wounded spirit were the fresh breezes of their virgin love, 
murmuring in fitful words from heart to heart. The in- 
flection of their voices, to them so full of charm, to her 
was heart-breaking ; a glance of mutual understanding 
surprised between the two threw her, half-dead as she 
was, back to the young and happy past which gave such 
bitterness to the present. Emmanuel and Marguerite 
with intuitive delicacy of feeling repressed the sweet 
half-childish play of love, lest it should hurt the saddened 
woman whose wounds they instinctively divined. 

No one has yet remarked that feelings have an exist- 
ence of their own, a nature which is developed by the 
circumstances that environ them, and in which they are 
born ; they bear a likeness to the places of their growth, 



The Alkahest. I57 

and keep the imprint of the ideas that influenced their 
development. There are passions artlently eonceivo<l 
which remain ardent, like that of Madame Clacs for her 
husband: there are sentiments on which all life has 
smiled; these retain their spring-time gayctv, their 
harvest-time of joy, seasons that never fail of lau.'h- 
ter or of fetes : but there are other loves, framed in 
melancholy, circled by distress, whose pleasures are 
painful, costly, burdened by fears, poisoned by remorse, 
or blackened by despair. The love in the heart of 
Marguerite and Emmanuel, as yet unknown to thoui 
for love, the sentiment that budded into life beneath 
the gloomy arches of the picture-gallery, beside tlie 
stern old abbe, in a still and silent moment, that love 
so grave and so discreet, yet rich in tender depths, in 
secret delights that were luscious to the taste as stolen 
grapes snatched from a corner of the vineyard, wore 
in coming years the sombre browns and grays that 
surrounded the hour of its birth. 

Fearing to give expression to their feelings beside 
that bed of pain, they unconsciously increased their 
happiness by a concentration which deepened its im- 
print on their hearts. The devotion of the daughter, 
shared bj- Emmanuel, happy in thus uniting hinisilf 
with Marguerite and becoming b}- anticipation the son 
of her mother, was their medium of communication. 
Melancholy thanks from the lips of the young girl sup 



158 The Alkahest. 

planted the honeyed language of lovers ; the sighing of 
their hearts, surcharged with joy at some interchange 
of looks, was scarcely distinguishable from the sighs 
wrung from them by the mother's sufferings. Their 
happy little moments of indirect avowal, of unuttered 
promises, of smothered effusion, were like the allegories 
of Raphael painted on a black gi'ound. Each felt a 
certainty that neither avowed ; the}' knew the sun was 
shining over them, but they could not know what wind 
might chase awa}' the clouds that gathered about their 
heads. The}' doubted the future ; fearing that pain 
would ever follow them, they stayed timidly' among the 
shadows of the twilight, not daring to say to each 
other, "Shall we end our days together?" 

The tenderness which Madame Claes now testified 
for her children noblv concealed much that she en- 
deavored to hide from herself Her children caused 
her neither fear nor passionate emotion : they were her 
comforters, but the}^ were not her life : she lived by 
them ; she died through Balthazar. However painful 
lier husband's presence might be to her, lost as he was 
for hours together in depths of thought from which he 
looked at her without seeing her, it was only during 
those cruel moments that she forgot her griefs. His in- 
difference to the dving woman would have seemed crim- 
inal to a stranger, but Madame Claes and her daughters 
were accustomed to it ; they knew his heart and they 



The Alkahest. 159 

forgave him. If, during the daytime, JosOphine was 
seized by some sudden iUness, if she were worse and 
seemed near dying, Claes was the only person in the 
house or in the town who remained ignorant of it. 
Lemulquinier knew it, but neither the daughters, bound 
to silence by their mother, nor Josephine herself let 
Balthazar know the danger of the being he had once 
so passionately loved. 

When his heavy step sounded in the gallery as he 
came to dinner, Madame Clai-s was happy — she was 
about to see him ! and she gathered up her strength for 
that happiness. As he entered, the pallid face blushed 
brightly and recovered for an instant the semblance of 
health. Balthazar came to her bedside, took her hand, 
saw the misleading color on her cheek, and to him she 
seemed well. When he asked, "M}- dear wife, how 
are j'ou to-daj'?" she answered, " Better, dear friend," 
and made him think she would be up and recovered 
on the morrow. His preoccupation was so great that he 
accepted this reply, and believed the illness of which 
his wife was dying a mere indisposition. Dying to the 
eyes of the world, in his alone she was living. 

A complete separation between husband and wife 
was the result of this year. Claiis slept in a distant 
chamber, got up early in the morning, and shut himsflf 
into his laboratory or his study. Seeing his wife only 
in presence of his daughters or of the two or three 



160 The Alkahest. 

friends who came to visit them, he lost the habit of 
communicating with her. These two beings, formerly 
accustomed to think as one, no longer, unless at rare 
intervals, enjoyed those moments of communion, of 
passionate unreserve which feed the life of the heart ; 
and finally there came a time when even these rare 
pleasures ceased. Physical suffering was now a boon to 
the poor woman, helping her to endure the void of sep- 
aration, which might have killed her had she been truly 
living. Her bodily pain became so great that there were 
times when she was joyful in the thought that he whom 
she loved was not a witness of it. She lay watching 
Balthazar in the evening hours, and knowing him happy 
in his own way, she lived in the happiness she had pro- 
cured for him, — a shadow}^ joy, and yet it satisfied her. 
She no longer asked herself if she were loved, she forced 
herself to believe it ; and she glided over that icy surface, 
not daring to rest her weight upon it lest it should break 
and drown her soul in a gulf of awful nothingness. 

No events stirred the calm of this existence ; the 
malady that was slowly consuming Madame Claes 
added to the household stillness, and in this condition 
of passive gloom the House of Claes reached the first 
weeks of the year 1816. Pierquin, the lawyer, was 
destined, at the close of February, to strike the death- 
blow of the angeUc woman who, in the words of the 
Abbe de Solis, was wellnigh without sin. 



TJie Alkahest. Itil 

" Madame," said Pierquin, seiziug a moment when 
her daughters could not hear the conversation. •' Mon- 
sieur Claes has directed me to borrow three hundrcil 
thousand francs on his property. You must do some- 
thing to protect the future of your children." 

Madame Claes clasped her hands and raised her eyes 
to the ceiling ; then she thanked the notary with ii sud 
smile and a kindly motion of her head which ttlTcctc-d 
him. 

His words were the stab that killed her. Duriuir 
that day she had yielded herself up to sad reflections 
which swelled her heart; she was like the wixyfurer 
walking beside a precipice who loses his balance and 
a mere pebble rolls him to the depth of the abyss he 
has so long and so courageously skirted. When the 
notary left her, Madame Claes told Marguerite to bring 
writing materials ; then she gathered up her remaining 
strength to write her last wishes. Several times she 
paused and looked at her daughter. The hour of con- 
fidence had come. 

Marguerite's management of the household since her 

mother's illness had so ampl}' fuKilled the dying 

woman's hopes that Madame Claes was able to look 

upon the future of the family without absolute despair, 

confident that she herself would live again in this strong 

and loving angel. Both women felt, no doubt, that sad 

and mutual confidences must be now made between 

11 



162 The Alkahest. 

them ; the daughter looked at the mother, the mother 
at the daughter, tears flowing from their ej^es. Several 
times, as Madame Claes rested from her writing, Mar- 
guerite said : " Mother?" then she stopped as if click- 
ing ; but the mother, occupied with her last thoughts, 
did not ask the meaning of the interrogation. At last, 
Madame Claes wished to seal the letter ; Marguerite 
held the taper, turning aside her head that she might 
not see the superscription. 

" You can read it, my child," said the mother, in a 
heart-rending voice. 

The young girl read the words, "To my daughter 
Marguerite." 

" We will talk to each other after I have rested 
awhile." said Madame Claes, putting the letter under 
her pillow. 

Then she fell back as if exhausted by the effort, and 
slept for several hours. When she woke, her two 
daughters and her two sons were kneeling by her bed 
and praj'ing. It was Thursdaj'. Gabriel and Jean had 
been brought from school by Emmanuel de Solis, who 
for the last six months was professor of history and 
philosophy. 

" Dear children, we must part!" she cried. "You 
have never forsaken me, never ! and he who — " 

She stopped. 

" Monsieur Emmanuel," said Marguerite, seeing the 



The Alkahest. 163 

pallor on her mother's face, " go to my father, and toll 
him mamma is worse." 

Young de Solis went to the door of the laboratory 
and persuaded Lemulquinier to make Balthazar come 
and speak to him. On hearing the urgent request of 
the j-oung man, Claes answered, " I will come." 

" Emmanuel," said Madame Claes when he retunu'd 
to her, " take my sons away, and bring your uncle here. 
It is time to give me the last sacraments, and 1 wish to 
receive them from his hand." 

When she was alone with her daughters she made a 
sign to Marguerite, who understood her and sent Ki'licie 
aw a}'. 

" I have something to say to you myself, dear mam- 
ma," said Marguerite who, not believing her mother so 
ill as she really was, increased the wound Pierquin had 
given. "I have had no money for the household ex- 
penses during the last ten da3's ; I owe six months' 
wages to the servants. Twice I have tried to ask mv 
father for money, but did not dare to do so. You don't 
know, perhaps, that all the pictures in the gallery have 
been sold, and all the wines in the cellar?" 

"He never told me!" exclaimed Madame Claiis. 
"My God! thou callest me to thyself in time! My 
poor children ! what will become of them ? " 

She made a fer\'ent praj'er, which brought the fires 
of repentance to her eyes. 



164 The Alkahest. 

" Marguerite," she resumed, drawing the letter from 
her pillow, "here is a paper which you must not open 
or read until a time, after my death, when some great 
disaster has overtaken you ; when, in short, you are 
without the means of living. My dear Marguerite, love 
your father, but take care of your brothers and your 
sister. In a few days, in a few hours perhaps, you will 
be the head of this household. Be economical. Should 
you find yourself opposed to the wishes of your father, 

— and it may so happen, because he has spent vast 
sums in searching for a secret whose discovery is to 
bring glory and wealth to his family, and he will no 
doubt need mone}', perhaps he may demand it of you, — 
should that time come, treat him with the tenderness of 
a daughter, strive to reconcile the interests of which 3'ou 
will be the sole protector with the duty which you owe to 
a father, to a great man who has sacrificed his happiness 
and his life to the glory of his family ; he can only do 
wrong in act, his intentions are noble, his heart is full of 
love ; you will see him once more kind and affectionate 

— You ! Marguerite, it is my duty to say these words to 
you on the borders of the grave. If you wish to soften 
the anguish of my death, promise me, my child, to take 
my place beside your father; to cause him no grief; 
never to reproach him ; never to condemn him. Be a 
gentle, considerate guardian of the home until — his work 
accomplished — he is again the master of his family." 



The Alkahest. 1(J5 

"I understand you, dear mother," said Marguerite, 
kissing the swollen eyelids of the dying woman. •• I 
will do as you wish." 

" Do not maiTy, my darling, until Gabriel can succeed 
you in the management of the property and the house- 
hold. If you married, your husband might not share 
your feelings, he might bring trouble into the family 
and disturb your father's life." 

Marguerite looked at her mother and said, •• Have 
you nothing else to say to me about my marriage? " 

"Can j-ou hesitate, my child?" cried the dying 
woman in alarm. 

" No," the daughter answered ; " I promise to obey 
you." 

" Poor gii-1 ! I did not sacrifice myself for you," said 
the mother, shedding hot tears. "Yet I ask you to sac- 
rifice j'ourself for all. Happiness makes us selfish. Yes, 
Marguerite, I have been weak because I was happy. lie 
strong ; preserve your own good sense to guard others 
who as yet have none. Act so that your brothers and 
your sister may not reproach my memory. Love 3'our 
father, and do not oppose him — too much." 

She laid her head on her pillow and said no more ; 
her strength was gone ; the inward struggle between 
the "Wife and the Mother had been too violent. 

A few moments later the clergy- came, preceded by 
the Abbe de Soils, and the parlor was filled by the 



166 The Alkahest. 

children and the household. When the ceremony was 
about to begin, Madame Claes, awakened by her con- 
fessor, looked about her and not seeing Balthazar said 
quickly, — 

" Where is my husband? " 

The woi'ds — summing up, as it were, her life and 
her death — were uttered in such lamentable tones that 
all present shuddered. Martha, in spite of her great 
age, darted out of the room, ran up the staircase and 
through the galler}', and knocked loudly on the door of 
the laborator}'. 

" Monsieur, madame is dying ; they are waiting for 
you, to administer the last sacraments," she cried with 
the violence of indignation. 

" I am coming," answered Balthazar. 

Lemulquinier came down a moment later, and said 
his master was following him. Madame Claes's ej'es 
never left the parlor door, but her husband did not ap- 
pear until the ceremony was over. When at last he 
entered, Josephine colored and a few tears rolled down 
her cheeks. 

"Were you trying to decompose nitrogen?" she 
said to him with an angelic tenderness which made the 
spectators quiver. 

" I have done it ! " he cried joyfull}' ; " Nitrogen con- 
tains oxj'gen and a substance of the nature of imponder- 
able matter, which is apparently the principle of — " 



Tlie Alkahest. 167 

A rnunuur of horror interrupted bis words aud brought 
him to his senses. 

"What did the}' tell me?" he demanded. •• Aro 
you worse? What is the matter?" 

"This is the matter, monsieur," whispered the AhUI- 
de Solis, indignant at his conduct ; " your wife is dying, 
and you have killed her." 

Without waiting for an answer the abbe took the arm 
of his nephew and went out followed by the family, who 
accompanied him to the court-yard. Balthazar stocnl as 
if thunderstruck ; he looked at his wife, and a few t«:-ara 
dropped from his e3'es. 

"You are dying, and I have killed you I " he said. 
" What does he mean? " 

" M3' husband," she answered, " I only lived in your 
love, and j'ou have taken my life away from me ; but 
3'ou knew not what you did." 

" Leave us," said Claes to his children, who now re- 
entered the room. " Have I for one moment ceased to 
love you?" he went on, sitting down beside his wife, 
and taking her hands and kissing them. 

"My friend, I do not blame you. You made nie 
happy — too happy, for I have not been able to bear 
the contrast between our early married life, so full of 
joy, and these last days, so desolate, so empty, when 
you are not yourself. The life of the heart, like llie 
life of the body, has its functions. For six yearn yt)U 



168 The Alkahest. 

have been dead to love, to the famil}', to all that wai 
once our happiness. I will not speak of our early mar- 
ried daj's ; such jo^-s must cease in the after-time of life, 
but they ripen into fruits which feed the soul, — confi- 
dence unlimited, the tender habits of affection : you have 
torn those treasures from me ! I go in time : we live 
together no longer ; j'ou hide your thoughts and actions 
from me. How is it that 3'ou fear me? Have I ever 
given you one word, one look, one gesture of reproach? 
And yet, you have sold your last pictures, you have sold 
even the wine in j^our cellar, you are borrowing mone}' 
on 3'our property, and have said no word to me. Ah ! 
I go from life weary of life. If you are doing wrong, 
if you delude j^ourself in following the unattainable, 
have I not shown you that my love could share your 
faults, could walk beside you and be happy, though 
you led me in the paths of crime ? You loved me too 
well, — that was my glory ; it is now my death. Bal- 
thazar, m}^ illness has lasted long ; it began on the da}'- 
when here, in this place where I am about to die, you 
showed me that Science was more to you than Famil}'. 
And now the end has come ; your wife is dying, and 
your fortune lost. Fortune and wife were yours, — 
you could do what you willed with your own ; but on 
the day of my death my property goes to my children, 
and you cannot touch it ; what will then become of you ? 
I am telling you the truth ; I owe it to you. Djing 



The Alkahest. 169 

eyes see far : when I am gone will anything outweigh 
that cursed passion which is now your life ? If you have 
sacrificed your wife, your children will count but litUo 
in the scale ; for I must be just and own you lovevl me 
above all. Two millions and six years of toil you have 
cast into the gulf, — and what have you found ? " 

At these words Claes grasped his whitened head in 
his hands and hid his face. 

" Humiliation for yourself, misery for your children," 
continued the dying woman. '> You are called in de- 
rision ' Claes the alchemist ; ' soon it will be ' Claes the 
madman.' For myself, I believe in you. I know you 
great and wise ; I know your genius : but to the vulgar 
eye genius is mania. Fame is a sun that lights the 
dead ; living, you will be unhappy with the unhappiness 
of great minds, and your children will be ruined. I go 
before I see your fame, which might have brought me 
■consolation for my lost happiness. Oh, Balthazar ! 
make my death less bitter to me, let me be certain that 
my children will not want for bread — Ah, nothing, 
nothing, not even 30U, can calm my fears." 

" I swear," said Claes, " to — " 

" No, do not swear, that you may not fail of your 
oath," she said, interrupting him. " You owed us your 
protection ; we have been without it seven years. Sci- 
ence is your life. A great man should have neither 
wife nor children ; he should tread alone the path of 



170 The Alkahest. 

sacrifice. His virtues are not tlie virtues of common 
men ; he belongs to the universe, he cannot belong to 
wife or famih' ; he sucks up the moisture of the earth 
about him, like a majestic ti'ee — and I, poor plant, I 
could not rise to the height of 3'our life, I die at its 
feet. I have waited for this last da}- to tell you these 
dreadful thoughts : they came to me in the lightnings of 
desolation and anguish. Oh, spare my children ! let 
these words echo in your heart. I cry them to you with 
my last breath. The wife is dead, dead ; you have 
stripped her slowly, gradually, of her feelings, of her 
joys. Alas ! without that cruel care could I have lived 
so long? But those poor children did not forsake me ! 
they have grown beside my anguish, the mother still 
survives. Spare them I Spare my children ! " 

" Lemulquinier ! " cried Claes in a voice of thunder. 

The old man appeared. 

"Go up and destro}' all — instruments, apparatus, 
everything ! Be careful, but destroy' all. I renounce 
Science," he said to his wife. 

'' Too late," she answered, looking at Lemulquinier. 
" Marguerite ! " she cried, feeling herself about to die. 

Marguerite came through the doorway and uttered a 
piercing cry as she saw her mother's e3es now glazing. 

" Marguerite ! " repeated the d3ing woman. 

The exclamation contained so powerful an appeal 
to her daughter, she invested that appeal with such 



The Alkahest. 



171 



authority, that the cry was like a dying bequest The 
terriQed family ran to her side and saw her ilie : the 
vital forces were exhausted in that last eouversution 
"with her husband. 

Balthazar and Marguerite stood motionless, she at 
the head, he at the foot of the bed, unable to believe in 
the death of the woman whose virtues and exhaustless 
tenderness were known fully to them alone. Katlier and 
daughter exchanged looks freighted with meaning : tlie 
daughter judged the father, ami already tin- father 
trembled, foreseeing in his daughter an instrument of 
vengeance. Though memories of the love with which 
Ms Pepita had filled his life crowded \\\ion his mind, 
and gave to her dying words a sacred authority whose 
voice his soul must ever hear, yet Balthazar knew him- 
self helpless in the grasp of his attendant genius ; he 
heard the teiTil)le mutterings of his passion, denying 
him the strength to carr^- his repentance into action : 
he feared himself. 

When the grave had closed upon Madame Claes, one 
thought filled the minds of all, — the house had liad a 
soul, and that soul was now departed. The grief of the 
family was so intense that the parlor, where the nol)le 
woman still seemed to linger, was closed ; no one ha<l 
the courage to enter it. 



172 The Alkahest. 



X. 



Society practises none of the virtues it demands from 
individuals : every hour it commits crimes, but the 
crimes are committed in words ; it paves the way for 
evil actions with a jest ; it degrades nobUity of soul 
by ridicule ; it jeers at sons who mourn their fathers, 
anathematizes those who do not mourn them enough, 
and finds diversion (the hypocrite !) in weighing the 
dead bodies before they are cold. 

The evening of the day on which Madame Claes died, 
her friends cast a few flowers upon her memory in the 
intervals of their games of whist, doing homage to her 
noble qualities as they sorted their hearts and spades. 
Then, after a few lachrymal phrases, — the fi, fo, fum 
of collective grief, uttered in precisely' the same tone, 
and with neither more nor less of feehng, at all hours 
and in every town in France, — they proceeded to esti- 
mate the value of her property. Pierquin was the first 
to observe that the death of this excellent woman was 
a mercy, for her husband had made her unhappy ; and 
it was even more fortunate for her children : she was 
unable while living to refuse her money to the husband 



The Alkahest 17ii 

she adored ; but now that she was dead, Claes was de- 
barred from touching it. Thereupon all present calcu- 
lated the fortune of that poor Madame Claiis, wondcrt-d 
how much she had laid by (had she, in fact, laid by 
anything?), made an inventory of her jewels, rummaged 
in her warckobe, peeped into her drawers, while Uic 
afflicted family were still weeping and i)raying around 
her death-bed. 

Pierquin, with an appraising eye, stated that Madame 
Claes's possessions in her own right — to use the no- 
tarial phrase — might still be recovered, and oiijrht 
to amount to nearly a million and a half of francs ; 
basing this estimate partly on the forest of Waignies, — 
whose timber, counting the full-grown trees, tlie sap- 
lings, the primeval growths, and the recent plantations, 
had immensely increased in value during the last twelve 
years, — and parti}' on Balthazar's own property, of 
which enough remained to "cover" the claims of his 
children, if the liquidation of their mother's fortune did 
not jield sufficient to release him. jSIademoiselle Clai-s 
was still, in Pierquin's slang, "a four-hundred-thousand- 
franc girl." " But," he added, " if she does n't marry, 
— a step which would of course separate her interests 
and permit us to sell the forest at auction, and so real- 
ize the property of the minor children and reinvest 
it where the father can't lay hands on it, — Clai-s is 
likely to ruin them all." 



174 The Alkahest. 

Thereupon, every bodj' looked about for some eligible 
young man worthy to win the hand of Mademoiselle 
Claes ; but none of them paid the lawj-er the compliment 
of suggesting that he might be the man. Pierquin, how- 
ever, found so man}' good reasons to reject the suggested 
matches as unworthy of Marguerite's position, that the 
confabulators glanced at each other and smiled, and 
took malicious pleasure in prolonging this truly pro- 
vincial method of anno3ance. Pierquin had already 
decided that Madame Claes's death would have a favor- 
able eflfect upon his suit, and he began mentally to cut 
up the. body in his own interests. 

" That good woman," he said to himself as he' went 
home to bed, "• was as proud as a peacock ; she would 
never have given me her daughter. He}', hey ! why 
could n't I manage matters now so as to marry the girl ? 
Pere Claes is drunk on carbon, and takes no care of his 
children. If, after convincing Marguerite that she must 
marry to save the property of her brothers and sister, 
I were to ask him for his daughter, he will be glad to 
get rid of a girl who is likely to thwart him." 

He went to sleep anticipating the charms of the mar- 
riage contract, and reflecting on the advantages of the 
step and the guarantees afforded for his happiness in 
the person he proposed to marry. In all the provinces 
there was certainly not a better brought-up or more del- 
icately lovely young girl than Mademoiselle Claes. Her 



The Alkahtst. I75 

modesty, her gi-ace, were like those of the pretty flower 
Emmanuel had feared to name lest be sbouUl Wiray 
the secret of his heart. Her sentiments were lofty, her 
principles religious, she would undoubtedly make him a 
a faithful wife: moreover, she not only flattorcd the 
vanity which influences every man more or less in tlie 
choice of a wife, but she gratified his pride by tbe high 
consideration which her family, doubly ennobled, en- 
joyed in Flanders, — a consideration which her hus- 
band of course would share. 

The next day Pierquin extracted from his strong-box 
several thousand-franc notes, which he oflered with 
great friendUness to Balthazar, so as to relieve him of 
pecuniary annoyance in tbe midst of his grief. Touched 
by this delicate attention, Balthazar would, he thought, 
praise his goodness and his personal qualities to ISIar- 
guerite. In this he was mistaken. Monsieur Claes 
and his daughter thought it was a very natural action, 
and their sorrow was too absorbing to let tlicm even 
think of the lawj'er. 

Balthazar's despair was indeed so great that persons 
who were disposed to blame his conduct could not do 
otherwise than forgive him, — less on account of the Sci- 
ence which might have excused him, tlian for tlie re- 
morse which could not undo bis deeds. Society is 
satisfied b\' appearances : it takes what it gives, with- 
out considering the intrinsic worth of the article. To 



176 The Alkahest. 

the world real suffering is a show, a species of enjoy- 
ment, which inclines it to absolve even a criminal ; in 
its thirst for emotions it acquits without judging the 
man who raises a laugh, or he who makes it weep, 
making no inquir}' into their methods. 

Marguerite was just nineteen when her father put her 
in charge of the household ; and her brothers and sister, 
whom Madame Claes in her last moments exhorted to 
obey their elder sister, accepted her authority with do- 
cility. Her mourning attire heightened the dewy white- 
ness of her skin, just as the sadness of her expression 
threw into relief the gentleness and patience of her 
manner. From the first she gave proofs of feminine 
courage, of inalterable serenity, like that of angels ap- 
pointed to shed peace on suffering hearts by a touch 
of their waving palms. But although she trained her- 
self, through a premature perception of duty, to hide 
her personal grief, it was none the less bitter ; her calm 
exterior was not in keeping with the deep trouble of her 
thoughts, and she was destined to undergo, too early in 
life, those terrible outbursts of feeling which no heart is 
able wholly to subdue : her father was to hold her in- 
cessantlj' under the pressure of natural youthful gen- 
erosity on the one hand, and the dictates of imperious 
duty on the other. The cares which came upon her the 
very day of her mother's death threw her into a struggle 
with the interests of life at an age when 3'oung girls are 



The Alkahest. 177 

thinking only of its pleasures. Dreadful discipline a' 
suffering, which is never lacking to angelic natures ! 

The love which rests on money or on vanity is iho 
most persevering of passions. Pierquin resolved to 
win the heiress without delay. A ft-w days aOor Ma- 
dame Claes's death he took occasion to speak to Mar- 
guerite, and began operations with a cleverness which 
might have succeeded if love had not given her the 
power of clear insight and saved her from mistaking 
appearances that were all the more specious because 
Pierquin displayed his natural kindheartcdness, — the 
kindliness of a notary who thinks himself loving while 
he protects a client's money. Relying on his rather 
distant relationship and his constant habit of managing 
the business and sharing the secrets of the Claiis family, 
sure of the esteem and friendship of the father, greatly 
assisted b}- the careless inattention of that servant of 
science who took no thought for the marriage of his 
daughter, and not suspecting that Marguerite could 
prefer another, — Pierquin unguardedly enabled her to 
form a judgment on a suit in which there was no passion 
except that of self-interest, always odious to a young 
soul, and which he was not clever enough to conceal. 
It was he who on this occasion was naively above- 
board, it was she who dissimulated, — simply because 
he thought he was deaUng with a defenceless girl, and 

whollj' misconceived the privileges of weakness. 

12 



178 The Alkahest. 

" My dear cousin," he said to Marguerite, with whom 
he was walking about the paths of the little garden, 
' ' you know my heart, you understand how truly I 
desire to respect the painful feelings which absorb you 
at this moment. I have too sensitive a nature for a 
lawj'er ; I live by my heart only, I am forced to spend 
my time on the interests of others when I would fain let 
m3self enjoy the sweet emotions which make life happ}'. 
I suffer deeply in being obliged to talk to you of sub- 
jects so discordant with your state of mind, but it is 
necessary. I have thought much about j'ou during the 
last few da3-s. It is evident that through a fatal delu- 
sion the fortune of jour brothers and sister and 3'our 
own are in jeopardy. Do 3'ou wish to save your family 
from complete ruin?" 

''What must I do?" she asked, half- frightened by 
his words. 

" Marry," answered Pierquin. 

" I shall not marry," she said. 

" Yes, 3'ou will marry," replied the notary, " when 
you have soberty thought over the critical position in 
which you are placed." 

" How can m}' marriage save — '* 

' ' Ah ! I knew 30U would consider it, my dear cousin," 
he exclaimed, interrupting h6r. " Marriage will eman- 
cipate you." 

i t ■Wh3- should I be emancipated ? " asked Marguerite. 



The Alkahest. I79 

''Because mamage ivill put you at once into p<». 
session of your property, n)y dear little cousin," said 
the lawyer in a tone of triumph. "If you marry you 
take your share of your mother's property. To give it 
to you, the whole property must be liquidated ; to do 
that, it becomes necessary to sell the forest of Waijjniea, 
That done, the proceeds will be capitalized, and your 
father, as guardian, will be compelled to invest the for- 
tune of his children in such a wjiy that Chemistry can't 
get hold of it." 

"And if I do not marry, what will happen?" she 
asked. 

"Well," said the notary, "your father will manage 
your estate as he pleases. If he returns to making 
gold, he will probably sell the timber of the forest of 
Waignies and leave his children as naked as the little 
Saint Johns. The forest is now worth about fourteen 
hundred thousand francs; but from one day to another 
3'ou are not sure your father won't cut it down, and 
then your thirteen hundred acres are not worth three 
hundred thousand francs. Is n't it better to avoid this 
almost certain danger by at once compelling the divi- 
sion of property on j'our marriage? If the forest is 
sold now, while Chemistry has gone to sleep, your 
father will put the proceeds on the Grand-Livre. The 
Funds are at 59 ; those dear children will get nearly 
five thousand francs a year for every fifty thousand 



180 The Alkahest. 

francs : and, inasmuch as the property of minors 
cannot be sold out, your brothers and sister will 
find their fortunes doubled in value by the time they 
come of age. Whereas, in the other case, — faith, 
no one knows wliat may happen : your father has 
alread}' impaired your mother's property ; we shall 
find out the deficit when we come to make the inven- 
tor}'. If he is in debt to her estate, you will take a 
mortgage on his, and in that way something may be 
recovered — " 

" For shame ! " said Marguerite. " It would be an 
outrage on my father. It is not so long since my 
mother uttered her last words that I have forgotten 
them. My father is incapable of robbing his children," 
she continued, giving way to tears of distress. "You 
misunderstand him. Monsieur Pierquin." 

"But, my dear cousin, if your father gets back to 
chemistry — " 

" We are ruined ; is that what you mean? " 

"Yes, utterly ruined. Believe me. Marguerite," he 
said, taking her hand which he placed upon his heart, 
"I should fail of my duty if I did not persist in this 
matter. Your interests alone — " 

"Monsieur," said Marguerite, coldly withdrawing 
her hand, " the true interests of my family require me 
not to marry. M}^ mother thought so." 

' ' Cousin," he cried, with the earnestness of a man 



The Alkahest. 181 

who sees a fortune escaping him, "you commit sui- 
cide; you fling your mother's property into a gulf. 
Well, I will prove the devotion I feel for you: you 
know not how I love you. I have admired you from 
the day of that last ball, three years ago ; vou wore 
enchanting. Trust the voice of love when it speaks to 
you of your own interests. Marguerite." He paused. 
" Yes, we must call a family council and emancipate 
3'ou — without consulting you," he added. 

" But what is it to be emancipated?" 

" It is to enjoy your own rights." 

*' If I can be emancipated without being married, 
why do you want me to marr}? and whom should I 
marr}- ? " 

Pierquin tried to look tenderly at his cousin, but the 
expression contrasted so strongly with his hard eyes, 
usually fixed on mone}', that Marguerite discovered the 
self-interest in his improvised tenderness. 

" You would marr}- the person who — pleases you — 
the most," he said. " A husband is indispensable, 
were it only as a matter of business. You are now 
entering upon a struggle with j'our father ; can you 
resist him all alone?" 

"Yes, monsieur; I shall know how to protect ray 
brothers and sister when the time comes." 

" Pshaw ! the obstinate creature," thought Pierquin. 
" No, you will not resist him," he said aloud. 



182 The Alkahest. 

" Let us end the subject," she said. 

"Adieu, cousin, I shall endeavor to serve you in 
spite of 3'ourself ; I will prove my love by protecting 
you against your will from a disaster which all the town 
foresees." 

" I thank yoxx for the interest you take in me," she 
answered ; " but I entreat 3- on to propose nothing and 
to undertake nothing which may give pain to my 
father." 

Marguerite stood thoughtfully watching Pierquin as 
he departed ; she compared his metallic voice, his 
manners, flexible as a steel spring, his glance, ser- 
vile rather than tender, with the mute melodious 
poetr}' in which Emmanuel's sentiments were wrapped. 
No matter what may be said, or what may be done, 
there exists a wonderful magnetism whose effects 
never deceive. The tones of the voice, the glance, 
the passionate gestures of a lover may be imitated ; 
a young girl can be deluded b}' a clever comedian ; 
but to succeed, the man must be alone in the field. 
If the 3'oung girl has another soul beside her whose 
pulses vibrate in unison with hers, she is able to dis- 
tinguish the expressions of a true love. Emmanuel, 
like Marguerite, felt the influence of the clouds which, 
from the time of their first meeting had gathered omi- 
nously about their heads, hiding from their eyes the 
blue skies of love. His feeling for the Elect of his 



The Alkahest, IgS 

heart was an idolatry which the total absence of hop« 
rendered gentle and mysterious in its manifestalions. 
Socially too far removed from Mademoiselle C'lal-s by 
his want of fortune, with nothing but a noble name to 
offer her, he saw no chance of ever being her husband. 
Yet he had always hoped for certain encouragements 
which Marguerite refused to give before the faili.ig eyes 
of her dying mother. Both e(iually pure, they had 
never said to one another a word of love. Their joys 
were solitary joys tasted by each alone. They trembled 
apart, though together they quivered beneath the rays 
of the same hope. They seemed to fear themselves, 
conscious that each only too surely belonged to the 
other. Emmanuel trembled lest he should touch the 
hand of the sovereign to whom he had made a shrine 
in his heart ; a chance contact would have roused hopes 
that were too ardent, he could not then have mastered 
the force of his passion. And yet, while neither be- 
stowed the vast, though trivial, the innocent and yet 
all-meaning signs of love that even timid lovers allow 
themselves, they were so firmly fixed in each other's 
hearts that both were ready to make the greatest sacri- 
fices, which were, indeed, the only pleasures their love 
could expect to taste. 

Since Madame Claes's death this hidden love was 
shrouded in mourning. The tints of the sphere in which 
it hved, dark and dim from the first, were now black ; 



184 The Alkahest. 

the few lights were veiled by tears. Marguerite's reserve 
changed to coldness ; she remembered the promise ex- 
acted by her mother. With more freedom of action, she 
nevertheless became more distant. Emmanuel shared 
his beloved's grief, comprehending that the slightest 
word or wish of love at such a time transgressed the laws 
of the heart. Their love was therefore more concealed 
than it had ever been. These tender souls sounded the 
same note : held apart by grief, as formerly by the 
timidities of j'outh and by respect for the sufferings of 
the mother, they clung to the magnificent language 
of the eyes, the mute eloquence of devoted actions, 
the constant unison of thoughts, — divine harmonies of 
youth, the first steps of a love still in its infancy. 
Emmanuel came every morning to inquire for Claes 
and Marguerite, but he never entered the dining-room, 
where the family now sat, unless to bring a letter from 
Gabriel or when Balthazar invited him to come in. 
His first glance at the 3'oung girl contained a thousand 
sj'mpathetic thoughts ; it told her that he sufiered under 
these conventional restraints, that he never left her, he 
was always with her, he shared her grief. He shed the 
tears of his own pain into the soul of his dear one by a 
look that was marred by no selfish reservation. His 
good heart lived so completely in the present, he clung 
so firmly to a happiness which he believed to be fugi- 
tive, that Marguerite sometimes reproached herself for 



The Alkahest. 185 

not generously holding out her hand and saying, " Let 
us at least be friends." 

Pierquin continued his suit with an obstinacy which 
is the unreflecting patience of fools. He judgcil Mar- 
guerite by the ordinary rules of the multitude when 
judging of women. He believed that the words mar- 
riage, freedom, fortune, which he had put into her mind, 
would germinate and flower into wishes by which ho 
could profit ; he imagined that her coldness ynxs mere 
dissimulation. But surround her as he would witli gal- 
lant attentions, he could not hide the despotic ways of 
a man accustomed to manage the private affairs of 
man}' families with a high hand. He discoursetl to her 
in those platitudes of consolation common to his profi-s- 
sion, which crawl like snails over the suffer ing mind, 
lea%dng behind them a trail of barren words which pro- 
fane its sanctity. His tenderness was mere wheedling. 
He dropped his feigned melancholy at the door when 
he put on his overshoes, or took his umbrella. Ik- 
used the tone his long intimacy authorized as an in- 
strument to work himself still further into the bosom 
of the family, and bring Marguerite to a marriage which 
the whole town was beginning to foresee. Tlie true, 
devoted, respectful, love formed a striking contrast 
to its selfish, calculating semblance. Each man's con- 
duct was homogeneous: one feigned a passion and 
seized every advantage to obtain the prize ; the other 



186 The Alkahest. 

hid his love and trembled lest he should betray his 
devotion. 

Some time after the death of her mother, and, as it 
happened, on the same day, Marguerite was enabled to 
compare the only two men of whom she had any oppor- 
tunity of judging ; for the social solitude to which she 
was condemned kept her from seeing life and gave no 
access to those who might think of her in marriage. 
One day after breakfast, on a fine morning in April, 
Emmanuel called at the house just as Monsieur Claes 
was going out. The aspect of his own house was so 
unendurable to Balthazar that he spent part of every 
day in walking about the ramparts. Emmanuel made 
a motion as if to foUow him, then he hesitated, seemed 
to gather up his courage, looked at Marguerite and re- 
mained. The young girl felt sure that he wished to 
speak with her, and asked him to go into the garden ; 
then she sent Felicie to Martha, who was sewing in 
the antechamber on the upper floor, and seated herself 
on a garden-seat in full view of her sister and the old 
duenna. 

" Monsieur Claes is as much absorbed by grief as he 
once was by science," began the 3'oung man, watching 
Balthazar as he slowl}' crossed the court-j^ard. " Every 
one in Douai pities him ; he moves like a man who has 
lost all consciousness of life ; he stops without a pur- 
pose, he gazes without seeing anything." 



The Alkahest. 18' 



ar- 



" Every sorrow has its own expression," said M 
guerite, cliecking her tears. •' What is it yon wish to 
say to me ? " she added after a pause, coldly and with 
dignity. 

"Mademoiselle," answered Emmanuel in a voice of 
feeling, "I scarcely know if I have the right to speak 
to you as I am about to do ? Think only of my desire 
to be of service to you, and give me the right of a 
teacher to be interested in the future of a juipil. Your 
brother Gabriel is over fifteen ; he is in the seconil class ; 
it is now necessary to direct his studies in the line of 
whatever future career he may take up. It is for your 
father to decide what that career shall be : if he gives 
the matter no thought, the injury to Gabriel will be se- 
rious. But then, again, would it not mortify your 
father if j'ou showed him that he is neglecting his son's 
interests ? Under these ckcumstances, could you not 
yourself consult Gabriel as to his tastes, and help him 
to choose a career, so that later, if his father shouUl 
think of making him a public officer, an administra- 
tor, a soldier, he might be prepared with some spe- 
cial training ? I do not suppose that either you or 
Monsieur Claes would wish to bring Gabriel ujt in 
idleness." 

"Oh, no!" said Marguerite ; "when my mother 
taught us to make lace, and took such pains witli 
our drawing and music and embroidery, she often said 



188 The Alkahest. 

we must be prepared for whatever might happen to us. 
Gabriel ought to have a thorough education and a per- 
sonal value. But tell me, what career is the best for a 
man to choose ? " 

"Mademoiselle," said Emmanuel, trembling with 
pleasure, " Gabriel is at the head of his class in mathe- 
matics ; if he would like to enter the Ecole Pol^-tech- 
nique, he could there acquire the practical knowledge 
which will fit him for any career. When he leaves the 
Ecole he can choose the path in life for which he feels 
the strongest bias. Thus, without compromising his 
future, you will have saved a great deal of time. Men 
who leave the Ecole with honors are sought after on all 
sides ; the school turns out statesmen, diplomats, men 
of science, engineers, generals, sailors, magistrates, 
manufacturers, and bankers. There is nothing ex- 
traordinary in the son of a rich or noble family pre- 
paring himself to enter it. If Gabriel decides on this 
course I shall ask you to — will you grant my request ? 
Say yes ! " 

"^Vhatisit?" 

" Let me be his tutor," he answered, trembling. 

Marguerite looked at Monsieur de Solis ; then she 
took his hand, and said, "Yes" — and paused, add- 
ing presently in a broken voice : — 

" How much I value the delicac}' which makes 
you offer me a thing I can accept from you. In all 



Tlie Alkahest. 189 

that you have said I see how much vou have thouirht 
for us. I thank you." 

Though the words were simply said, Emmanuel 
tiu'ned away his head not to show the tears that the 
delight of being useful to her brought to his eyes. 

" I will bring both boys to see you," he said, when 
he was a little calmer ; '* to-morrow is a holidav." 

He rose and bowed to Marguerite, who followed him 
into the house ; when he had crossed the court -yard he 
turned and saw her still at the door of the dining-room, 
from which she made him a friendly sign. 

After dinner Pierquin came to see Slonsieur Claes, 
and sat down between father and daughter on the viry 
bench in the garden where Emmanuel had sat thut 
morning. 

" M}' dear cousin," he said to Balthazar, "I have 
come to-night to talk to you on business. It is now 
fort3'-two days since the decease of your wife." 

" I keep no account of time," said Balthazar, wiping 
away the tears that came at the word " decease." 

"Oh, monsieur!" cried Marguerite, looking .at the 
lawyer, " how can 3'ou?" 

" But, my dear Marguerite, we notaries are oltlitred 
to consider the limits of time appointed by law. TliiH 
is a matter which concerns you and your co-hiirs. 
Monsieur Claes has none but minor children, and ho 
must make an inventory of his property within forty- 



190 TJie Alkahest. 

five days of his wife's decease, so as to render in his 
accounts at the end of that time. It is necessary to 
know the value of his property before deciding whether 
to accept it as sufficient security, or whether we must 
fall back on the legal rights of minors." 

Marguerite rose. 

" Do not go away, my dear cousin," continued Pier- 
quin ; " my words concern you — you and your father 
both. You know how truly I share your grief, but to- 
da}' you must give your attention to legal details. If 
3'ou do not, every one of you will get into serious dif- 
ficulties. I am only doing my duty as the family' 
lawyer." 

" He is right," said Claes. 

"The time expires in two days," resumed Pierquin ; 
" and I must begin the inventory to-morrow, if only to 
postpone the payment of the legacy-tax which the pub- 
lic treasurer will come here and demand. Treasurers 
have no hearts ; the}' don't trouble themselves about 
feelings ; they fasten their claws upon us at all seasons. 
Therefore for the next two days my clerk and I will be 
here from ten till four with Monsieur Raparlier, the 
public appraiser. After we get through the town prop- 
erty we shall go into the country. As for the forest of 
Waignies, we shall be obliged to hold a consultation 
about that. Now let us turn to another matter. We 
must call a family council and appoint a guardian to 



The Alkahest. 191 

protect the interests of the miuor children. Monsieur 
Conyncks of Bruges is your nearest relative ; but he 
has now become a Belgian. You ought," continuetl 
Pierquin, addressing Balthazar, '' to write to him on 
this matter ; you can then find out if he has any iutt-n- 
tion of settling in France, where he has a fine proportv. 
Perhaps you could persuade him and his daughU?r to 
move into French Flanders. If he refuses, then I must 
see about making up the council with the other near 
relatives." 

"What is the use of an inventory?" asked Mar- 
guerite. 

' ' To put on record the value and the claims of the 
Y)ropert3', its debts and its assets. When that is all 
clearly scheduled, the familj- council, acting on behalf 
of the minors, makes such dispositions as it sees 
fit." 

" Pierquin," said Claes, rising from the bench, "do 
all that is necessary to protect the rights of my chil- 
dren ; but spare us the distress of selling the things 
that belonged to my dear — " he was unable to con- 
tinue ; but he spoke with so noble an air and in a tone 
of such deep feeling that Marguerite took her father's 
hand and kissed it. 

" To-morrow, then," said Pierquin. 

" Come to breakfast," said Claes ; then he seemed to 
gather his scattered senses together and exclaimed: 



192 The Alkahest. 

"But in my marriage contract, which was drawn 
under the laws of Hainault, I released my wife from 
the obligation of making an inventory, in order that 
she might not be annoyed by it : it is very probable 
that I was equally released — " 

"Oh, what happiness!" cried Marguerite. "It 
would have been so distressing to us." 

"Well, I will look into your marriage contract to- 
morrow," said the notary, rather confused. 

" Then you did not know of this?" said Marguerite. 

This remark closed the interview ; the lawyer was 
far too much confused to continue it after the young 
girl's comment. 

"The devil is in it!" he said to himself as he 
crossed the court-yard. " That man's wandering mem- 
ory comes back to him in the nick of time, — just when 
he needed it to hinder us from taking precautions 
against him ! I have cracked my brains to save the 
property of those children. I meant to proceed regu- 
larly and come to an understanding with old Cony neks, 
and here's the end of it! I shall lose ground with 
Marguerite, for she will certainly ask her father why I 
wanted an inventory of the property, which she now 
sees was not necessary ; and Claes will tell her that 
notaries have a passion for writing documents, that we 
are lawyers above all, above cousins or friends or 
relatives, and all such stufl as that." 



The Alkahest. 1 93 

He slammed the street door violently, railing at 
clients who ruin themselves by sensitiveness. 

Balthazar was right. No inventory eould be made. 
Nothing, therefore, was done to setUe the relation of 
the father to the children in the matt*.^r of property. 

13 



194 The Alkahest. 



XI. 

Several months went by and brought no change to 
the House of Claes. Gabriel, under the wise manage- 
ment of his tutor, Monsieur de Solis, worked studious!}-, 
acquired foreign languages, and prepared to pass the 
necessary examinations to enter the Ecole Polj'tech- 
nique. Marguerite and Felicie lived in absolute retire- 
ment, going in summer to their father's country place 
as a measure of econom}'. Monsieur Claes attended to 
his business affairs, paid his debts b}" borrowing a con- 
siderable sum of money on his property, and went to 
see the forest at Waignies. 

About the middle of the yeax 1817, his grief, slowly 
abating, left him a prey to solitude and defenceless 
under the monotony of the life he was leading, which 
heavily oppressed him. At first he struggled bravely 
against the allurements of Science as they gradually be- 
set him ; he forbade himself even to think of Chemistry. 
Then he did think of it. Still, he would not actively 
take it up, and onl}^ gave his mind to his researches 
theoretically. Such constant stud}', however, swelled 
his passion which soon became exacting. He asked 



The Alkahest. I95 

himself whether he was really bound not to continue his 
researches, and remcmhered that his wife had nfusoil 
his oath. Though he had pledged his wonl to hinist-If 
that he would never pursue the solution of the great 
Problem, might he not change that det<«rmination at a 
moment when he foresaw success ? He was now fiav- 
nine years old. At that age a predominant idea con- 
tracts a certain peevish fixedness which is the first 
stage of monomania. 

Circumstances conspired against his totterini; loy- 
alty. The peace which Europe now enjoyed encour- 
aged the circulation of discoveries and scientific ideas 
acquired during the war by the learned of various coun- 
tries, who for nearly twenty years had been unable to 
hold communication. Science was making great strides. 
Claes found that the progress of chemistry had been 
directed, unknown to chemists themselves, towards the 
object of his researches. Learned men devoted to the 
higher sciences thought, as he did, that light, heat, 
electricit}', galvanism, magnetism were all different ef- 
fects of the same cause, and that the difference existing 
between substances hitherto considered simple must be 
produced by var3'ing proportions of an luiknown princi- 
ple. The fear that some other chemist might effect the 
reduction of metals and discover the constituent i)rin- 
ciple of electricit}', — two achievements whith would 
lead to the solution of the chemical Absolute, — 



196 The Alkahest. 

increased what the people of Douai called a mania, and 
drove his desires to a paroxysm conceivable to those 
"vrho devote themselves to the sciences, or who have 
ever known the tyranny of ideas. 

Thus it happened that Balthazar was again carried 
awa}" by a passion all the more violent because it 
had lain dormant so long. Marguerite, who watched 
every evidence of her father's state of mind, opened 
the long-closed parlor. By living in it she recalled 
the painful memories which her mother's death had 
caused, and succeeded for a time in re-awaking her 
father's grief, and retarding his plunge into the gulf to 
the depths of which he was, nevertheless, doomed to 
fall. She determined to go into society and force Bal- 
thazar to share in its distractions. Several good mar- 
riages were proposed to her, which occupied Claes's 
mind, but to all of them she replied that she should not 
marry until after she was twenty-five. But in spite of 
his daughter's efforts, in spite of his remorseful strug- 
gles, Balthazar, at the beginning of the winter, returned 
secretly to his researches. It was difficult, however, 
to hide his operations from the inquisitive women in 
the kitchen ; and one morning Martha, while dressing 
Marguerite, said to her : — 

" Mademoiselle, we are as good as lost. That mon- 
ster of a Mulquinier — who is a devil disguised, for I 
never saw him make the sign of the cross — has gone 



The Alkahest. I97 

back to the garret. There's monsieur on the high-road 
to hell. Pray God he mayn't kill you aa he kilKxl 
my poor mistress." 

" It is not possible ! " exclaimed Marg:ucrite. 

" Come and see the signs of their trallic." 

Mademoiselle Claes ran to the window and saw the 
light smoke rising from the flue of the laboratory, 

'* I shall be twentj'-one in a few months," she thought, 
*' and I shall know how to oppose the destruction of our 
property." 

In giving way to his passion Balthazar necessarily 
felt less respect for the interests of his children than lie 
formerly had felt for the happiness of his wife. Tlie 
barriers were less high, his conscience was more elastic, 
his passion had increased in strength. Uo now set 
forth in his career of glory, toil, hope, and poverty, with 
the fervor of a man profoundly trustful of his convic- 
tions. Certain of the result, he worked night and day 
with a fury that alarmed his daughters, who did not 
know how little a man is injured by work that give* 
him pleasure. 

Her father had no sooner recommenced his experi- 
ments than Marguerite retrenched the supcrfluitii-s of 
the table, showing a parsimony worth}' of a miser, in 
which Josette and Martha admirably seconded lu-r. 
Claes never noticed the change which reduced the 
household living to the merest necessaries. First ho 



198 The Alkahest. 

ceased to breakfast with the famil}- ; then he only left 
his laboratory when dinner was ready ; and at last, be- 
fore he went to bed, he would sit some hours in the 
parlor between his daughters without saj^ing a word to 
either of them ; when he rose to go upstairs they wished 
him good-night, and he allowed them mechanically to 
kiss him on both cheeks. Such conduct would have led 
to great domestic misfortunes had Marguerite not been 
prepared to exercise the authorit}' of a mother, and if, 
moreover, she were not protected by a secret love from 
the dangers of so much liberty. 

Pierquin had ceased to come to the house, judging 
that the family ruin would soon be complete. Bal- 
thazar's rural estates, which jdelded sixteen thousand 
francs a 3'ear, and were worth about six hundred thou- 
sand, were now encumbered b}' mortgages to the 
amount of three hundred thousand francs ; for, in order 
to recommence his researches, Claes had borrowed a 
considerable sum of money. The rents were exactly 
enough to pay the interest of the mortgages ; but, with 
the improvidence of a man who is the slave of an idea, 
he made over the income from his farm lands to Mar- 
guerite for the expenses of the household, and the no- 
tary calculated that three years would suffice to bring 
matters to a crisis, when the law would step in and eat 
up all that Balthazar had not squandered. Marguerite's 
coldness brought Pierquin to a state of almost hostile 



The Alkahest. 199 

indifference. To give himself an appearance in tlio 
eyes of the world of having renounced her band, ho 
frequently remarked of the Claes family in a tone of 
compassion : — 

" Those poor people are ruined ; I have done my best 
to save them. Well, it can't be helped ; Madi'moiselle 
Claes refused to employ the legal means wliich might 
have rescued them from poverty." 

Emmanuel de SoUs, who was now principal of the 
college-school in Douai, thanks to the influence of his 
uncle and to his own merits which made him worthy of 
the post, came every evening to see the two young girls, 
who called the old duenna into the parlor as soon as 
their father had gone to bed. Emmanuel's gentle rap 
at the street-door was never missing. For the last three 
months, encouraged bj' the gracious, though mute grati- 
tude with which Marguerite now accepted his attentions, 
he became at his ease, and was seen for what he was. 
The brightness of his pure spirit shone like a flawless 
diamond ; Marguerite learned to understand its strength 
and its constancy when she saw how inexhaustible was 
the source from which it came. She loved to watch the 
unfolding, one by one, of the blossoms of his heart, 
whose perfume she had already breathed. Each day 
Emmanuel realized some one of Marguerite's hoyteSy 
and illumined the enchanted regions of love with new 
lights that chased away the clouds and brought to view 



200 The Alkahest. 

the serene heavens, giving color to the fruitful riches 
hidden away in the shadow of their lives. More at his 
ease, the j'oung man could display the seductive quali- 
ties of his heart until now discreetly hidden, the expan- 
sive ga3'et3' of his age, the simplicity which comes of a 
life of study, the treasures of a delicate mind that life 
has not adulterated, the innocent jo^'ousness which goes 
so well with loving j'outh. His soul and Marguerite's 
understood each other better ; they went together to 
the depths of their hearts and found in each the same 
thoughts, — pearls of equal lustre, sweet fresh harmonies 
like those the legends tell of beneath the waves, which 
fascinate the divers. They made themselves known to 
one another b}' an interchange of thought, a reciprocal 
introspection which bore the signs, in both, of exquisite 
sensibilit3\ It was done without false shame, but not 
without mutual coquetr}'. The two hours which Em- 
manuel spent with the sisters and old Martha enabled 
Marguerite to accept the life of anguish and renuncia- 
tion on which she had entered. This artless, progressive 
love was her support. In all his testimonies of affection 
Emmanuel showed the natural grace that is so winning, 
the sweet yet subtile mind which breaks the uniformity 
of sentiment as the facets of a diamond relieve, by their 
many-sided fires, the monotony of the stone, — adorable 
wisdom, the secret of loving hearts, which makes a 
woman pliant to the artistic hand that gives new life to 



The Alkahest. 201 

old, old forms, and refreshes with novel modulations 
the phrases of love. Love is not only a sentiment, 
it is an art. Some simple word, a trifling vigilanco, 
a nothing, reveals to a woman the great, the divine 
artist who shall touch her heart and yet not blight it. 
The more Emmanuel was free to utter himself, the more 
charming were the expressions of his love. 

" I have tried to get here before Pierquin," ho said 
to Marguerite one evening. " He is bringing some bad 
news ; I would rather you heard it from mi'. Your 
father has sold all the timber in vour forest at Wai«'- 
nies to speculators, who have resold it to dealers. The 
trees are already felled, and the logs are carried away. 
Monsieur Claes received three hundred thousand francs 
in cash as a first instalment of the price, which he has 
used towards paying his bills in Paris ; but to clear off 
his debts entirely he has been forced to assign a hun- 
dred thousand francs of the three hundred thousand 
still due to him on the purchase-money." 

Pierquin entered at this moment. 

"Ah! m\' dear cousin," he said, "you are ruined. 
I told you how it would be ; but you would not listen 
to me. Your father has an insatiable appetite', llf 
has swallowed j'our woods at a mouthful. Your family 
guardian. Monsieur Conyncks, is just now absent in 
Amsterdam, and Claes has seized the opportunity to 
strike the blow. It is all wrong. I have written to 



202 Tlie Alkahest. 

Monsieur Conj'ncks, but he will get here too late ; 
everything will be squandered. You will be obliged to 
sue your father. The suit can't be long, but it will be 
dishonorable. Monsieur Conyncks has no alternative 
but to institute proceedings ; the law requires it. This 
is the result of your obstinacy. Do you now see my 
prudence, and how devoted I was to 3'our interests ? " 

" I bring you some good news, mademoiselle," said 
young de Solis in his gentle voice. " Gabriel has been 
admitted to the Ecole Folytechnique. The difficulties 
that seemed in the way have all been removed." 

Marguerite thanked him with a smile as she said : — 

" My savings will now come in play! Martha, we 
must begin to-morrow on Gabriel's outfit. My poor 
Felicie, we shall have to work hard," she added, kissing 
her sister's forehead. 

" To-morrow you shall have him at home, to remain 
ten days," said Emmanuel; " he must be in Paris by 
the fifteenth of November." 

" My cousin Gabriel has done a sensible thing," said 
the lawyer, eyeing the professor from head to foot ; 
" for he will have to make his own way. But, my dear 
cousin, the question now is how to save the honor of the 
family : will you listen to what I say this time ? " 

" No," she said, "not if it relates to marriage." 

" Then what will you do? " 

*' I? — nothing." 



The Alkaheit. 203 

*' But you are of age." 

*' I shall be in a few days. Have you any course to 
suggest to me," she added, " which will reconcile our 
interests with the duty we owe to our father and to the 
honor of the family ? " 

" My dear cousin, nothing can be done till your uncle 
arrives. When he does, I will call again." 

" Adieu, monsieur," said Marguerite. 

" The poorer she is the more airs she gives herself," 
thought the notary. " Adieu, mademoiselle," he said 
aloud. " Monsieur, my respects to you ; " and he went 
away, paying no attention to Felicie or Martha. 

"I have been studying the Code for the last two 
da3's, and I have consulted an experienced old lawyer, 
a friend of my uncle," said Emmanuel, in a hesitating 
voice. " If you will allow me, I will go to Amsterdam 
to-morrow and see Monsieur Conyncks. Listen, dear 
Marguerite — " 

He uttered her name for the first time ; she thanked 
him with a smile and a tearful glance, and made a 
gentle incUnation of her head. He paused, looking 
at Felicie and Martha. 

" Speak before my sister," said Marguerite. " Sho 
is so docile and courageous that she does not need this 
discussion to make her resigned to our life of toil and 
privation ; but it is best that she should see for hcrseli 
how necessary courage is to us." 



204 The Alkahest. 

The two sisters clasped hands and kissed each other, 
as if to renew some pledge of union before the coming 
disaster. 

" Leave us, Martha." 

" Dear Marguerite," said Emmanuel, letting the hap- 
piness he felt in conquering the lesser rights of affec- 
tion sound in the inflections of his voice, " I have 
procured the names and addresses of the purchasers 
who still owe the remaining two hundred thousand 
francs on the felled timber. To-morrow, if you give 
consent, a lawyer acting in the name of Monsieur 
Cony neks, who will not disavow the act, will serve an 
injunction upon them. Six days hence, by which time 
3'our uncle will have returned, the family council can 
be called together, and Gabriel put in possession of 
his legal rights, for he is now eighteen. You and your 
brother being thus authorized to use those rights, you 
will demand your share in the proceeds of the timber. 
Monsieur Claes cannot refuse you the two hundred 
thousand francs on which the injunction will have been 
put ; as to the remaining hundred thousand which is 
due to you, yon must obtain a mortgage on this house. 
Monsieur Conyncks will demand securities for the three 
hundred thousand belonging to Felicie and Jean. 
Under these circumstances your father wiU be obliged 
to mortgage his property on the plain of Orchies, 
which he has already encumbered to the amount of 



The Alkahest. 205 

three hundred thousand francs. The law gives a n>tro- 
speetive priority to the claims of minors ; and that will 
save you. Monsieur Claes's hands will be tied for the 
future ; your property becomes inalienable, and he c-an 
no longer borrow on his own estates because they will 
be held as security for other sums. Moreover, the 
whole can be done quietly, without scandal or U-gal 
proceedings. Your father will be forced to gri-ater 
prudence in making his researches, even if he c^innot 
be persuaded to relinquish them altogether." 

" Yes," said Marguerite, " but where, meantime, can 
we find the means of living? The hundred thousand 
francs for which, you say, I must obtain a mortgage on 
this house, would bring in nothing while we still live 
here. The proceeds of my father's property in the coun- 
try' will pay the interest on the three hundred thousand 
francs he owes to others ; but how are we to live ? " 

"In the first place," said Emmanuel, "by investing 
the fifty thousand francs which belong to Gabriel in the 
public Funds you will get, according to present rates, 
more than four thousand francs' income, which will 
suffice to pa}' your brother's board and lodging and all 
his other expenses in Paris. Gabriel cannot touch the 
capital until he is of age, therefore you need not fear 
that he will waste a penny of it, and you will have one 
expense the less. Besides, you will have your owu 
fifty thousand/' 



206 The Alkahest, 

"My father will ask me for them," she said in a 
frightened tone; "and I shall not be able to refuse 
him." 

" Well, dear Marguerite, even so, you can evade 
that by robbing yourself. Place 3'our money in the 
Grand-Livre in Gabriel's name : it will bring you 
twelve or thirteen thousand francs a year. Minors 
who are emancipated cannot sell property without per- 
mission of the family council ; you will thus gain three 
years' peace of mind. By that time your father will 
either have solved his problem or renounced it ; and 
Gabriel, then of age, wiU reinvest the money in your 
own name." 

Marguerite made him explain to her once more the 
legal points which she did not at first understand. It 
was certainly a novel sight to see this pair of lovers 
poring over the Code, which Emmanuel had brought 
with him to show his mistress the laws which pro- 
tected the property of minors ; she quickly caught 
the meaning of them, thanks to the natural penetra- 
tion of women, which in this case love still further 
sharpened. 

Gabriel came home to his father's house on the fol- 
lowing day. When Monsieur de Solis brought him up 
to Balthazar and told of his admission to the Ecole 
Poly technique, the father thanked the professor with a 
wave of his hand, and said : — 



The Alkahest. 207 

"T am very glad; Gabriel may become a man of 



science." 



"Oh, my brother," cried Marguerite, as Balthazar 
went back to his laboratory, '' work hard, waste no 
money ; spend what is necessary, but practise economy. 
On the days when you are allowed to go out. pass 
your time with our friends and relations ; contract none 
of the habits which ruin young men in Paris. Yuur 
expenses will amount to nearly three thousand francs, 
and that will leave you a thousand francs for your 
pocket-money ; that is surel}' enough." 

"I will answer for him," said Emmanuel de Soils, 
laying his hand on his pupil's shoulder. 

A month later, Monsieur Conyncks, in conjunction 
with Marguerite, had obtained all necessary securities 
from Claes. The plan so wisely proposed by Emman- 
uel de Solis was fully approved and executed. Face to 
face with the law, and in presence of his cousin, whose 
stern sense of honor allowed no compromise, Balthazar, 
ashamed of the sale of the timber to which he had con- 
sented at a moment when he was harassed b}- creditors, 
submitted to all that was demanded of him. Glad to 
repair the almost involuntar}' wrong that he had done 
to his children, he signed the deeds in a preoccupied 
way. He was now as careless and improvident as a 
negro who sells his wife in the morning for a drop of 
brandy, and cries for her at night. He gave uo 



208 The Alkahest. 

thought to even the immediate future, and never asked 
himself what resources he would have when his last 
ducat was melted up. He pursued his work and con- 
tinued his purchases, apparently unaware that he was 
now no more than the titular owner of his house and 
lands, and that he could not, thanks to the severit}' of 
the laws, raise another penny upon a propertj' of which 
he was now, as it were, the legal guardian. 

The year 1818 ended without bringing any new mis- 
fortune. The sisters paid the costs of Jean's education 
and met all the expenses of the household out of the 
thirteen thousand francs a year from the sum placed in 
the Grand-Livre in Gabriel's name, which he punctually 
remitted to them. Monsieur de Solis lost his uncle, 
the abbe, in December of that year. 

Early in Januar}' Marguerite learned through Martha 
that her father had sold his collection of tulips, also the 
furuiture of the front house, and all the family silver. 
She was obliged to buy back the spoons and forks that 
were necessary for the daily service of the table, and 
these she now ordered to be stamped with her initials. 
Until that day Marguerite had kept silence towards 
her father on the subject of his depredations, but that 
evening after dinner she requested Felicie to leave her 
alone with him, and when he seated himself as usual by 
the corner of the parlor fireplace, she said : — 

" M}^ dear father, you are the master here, and can 



The Alkahest. 209 

Bell everything, even your children. We are reach to 
obey you without a murmur ; but I am forced to teL 
you that we are without money, that we have barely 
enough to live on, and that FtiUcie and I are obliged to 
work night and day to pay for the schooling of litUc 
Jean with the price of the lace dress we are now 
making. My dear father, I implore you to give up 
your researches." 

'* You are right, my dear chUd ; in six weeks they 
will be finished ; I shall have found the Absolute, or 
the Absolute will be proved undiscoverablc. You will 
have millions — " 

"Give us meanwhile the bread to cat," replied 
Marguerite. 

" Bread ? is there no bread here ?" said Clai-s, with 
a frightened air. " Xo bread in the house of a Clai-s ! 
What has become of our property ? " 

" You have cut down the forest of "Waignics. The 
ground has not been cleared and is therefore unproduc- 
tive. As for your farms at Orchies, the rents scarcely 
suffice to pa}' the interest of the sums you have 
borrowed — " 

" Then what are we living on? " he demanded. 

Marguerite held up her needle and continued : — 

" Gabriel's income helps us, but it is insutlicicnt ; I 
can make both ends meet at the close of the year if you 
do not overwhelm me with bills that I do not eipect, 

14 



210 The Alkahest. 

for purchases you tell me nothing about. When I think 
I have enough to meet m}' quarterly expenses some un- 
expected bill for potash, or zinc, or sulphur, is brought 
to me." 

"My dear child, have patience for six weeks; after 
that, I will be judicious. My httle Marguerite, you 
shall see wonders." 

" It is time you should think of your affairs. You 
have sold everything, — pictures, tulips, plate ; nothing, 
is left. At least, refrain from making debts." 

" I don't wish to make an}- more ! " he said. 

" Any more? " she cried, " then you have some ?" 

" Mere trifles," he said, but he dropped his eyes and 
colored. 

For the first time in her life Marguerite felt humiliated 
by the lowering of her father's character, and suffered 
from it so much that she dared not question him. 

A month after this scene one of the Douai bankers 
brought a bill of exchange for ten thousand francs 
signed b}' Claes. Marguerite asked the banker to wait 
a day, and expressed her regret that she had not been 
notified to prepare for this paj-ment; whereupon he 
informed her that the house of Protez and Chiffreville 
held nine other bills to the same amount, falling due in 
consecutive months. 

"All is over!" cried Marguerite, "the time has 
come." 



The Alkahest. 211 

She sent for her father, and walked up and down the 
parlor with hasty steps, talking to herself: 

" A hundred thousand francs ! " she cried. - I must 
find them, or see my father in prison. What am I to 
do?" 

Balthazar did not come. Weary of waiting for him, 
Marguerite went up to the laboratory. As she entered 
she saw him in the middle of an immense, briiliantlv- 
lighted room, filled with machinery and dusty glass ves- 
sels : here and there were books, and tables encumbered 
with specimens and products ticketed and numbtTeil. 
On all sides the disorder of scientific pursuits con- 
trasted strongly with Flemish habits. This litter of re- 
torts and vaporizers, metals, fantasticalh- colored crys- 
tals, specimens hooked upon the walls or lying on the 
furnaces, surrounded the central figure of Ikiltliazar 
Claes, without a coat, his arms bare like those of a 
workman, his breast exposed, and showing the white 
hairs which covered it. His e3'e8 were gazing wiili 
horrible fixitj' at a pneumatic trough. The receiver of 
this instrument was covered with a lens made of double 
convex glasses, the space between the glasses being 
filled with alchohol, which focussed the light coming 
through one of the compartments of the rose-window of 
the garret. The shelf of the receiver comraunicatecJ 
with the wire of an immense galvanic battery. Loiniil- 
quinier, busy at the moment in moving the pedestal of 



212 The Alkahest. 

the machine, which was placed on a moA'able axle so as 
to keep the lens in a perpendicular direction to the rays 
of the sun, turned round, his face black with dust, and 
called out, — 

" Ha ! mademoiselle, don't come in." 

The aspect of her father, half-kneeling beside the in- 
strument, and receiving the full strength of the sunlight 
upon his head, the protuberances of his skull, its scanty 
hairs resembling threads of silver, his face contracted 
by the agonies of expectation, the strangeness of the 
objects that surrounded him, the obscurity of parts of 
the vast garret from which fantastic engines seemed 
about to spring, all contributed to startle Marguerite, 
who said to herself, in terror, — 

"He is mad!" 

Then she went up to him and whispered in his ear, 
" Send away Lemulquinier." 

" No, no, m}' child ; I want him : I am in the midst 
of an experiment no one has yet thought of. For the 
last three days we have been watching for every ray of 
sun. I now have the means of submitting metals, in a 
complete vacuum, to concentrated solar fires and to 
electric currents. At this very moment the most pow- 
erful action a chemist can employ is about to show re- 
sults which I alone — " 

"My father, instead of vaporizing metals you should 
employ them in paying your notes of hand — " 



The Alkahest. 213 

"Wait, wait!" 

" Monsieur Mersktus has been here, father; and ho 
must have ten thousand francs by four o'clock." 

" Yes, yes, presently. True, I did sign a UtUe note 
which is payable this month. I felt sure I should have 
found the Absolute. Good God ! If I could only have 
a July sun the experiment would be successful." 

He grasped his head and sat down on an old cane 
chair ; a few tears rolled from his eyes. 

" Monsieur is quite right," said Lemulquiuicr ; " it is 
all the fault of that rascally sun which is too feeble, — 
the coward, the lazy thing ! " 

Master and valet paid no further attention to Mar- 
guerite. 

" Leave us, Mulquinier," she said. 

" Ah ! I see a new experiment ! " cried Claes. 

"Father, la}- aside 3'our experiments," said his 
daughter, when they were alone. " You have one 
hundred thousand francs to pay, and we have not a 
penn}'. Leave your laboratory ; your honor is in ques- 
tion. What will become of 3'ou if you are put in 
prison ? Will you soil your white hairs and the name 
of Claes with the disgrace of bankruptcy? I will not 
allow it. I shall have strength to oppose your mad- 
ness ; it would be dreadful to see you without bread in 
your old age. Open your eyes to our position ; seo 
reason at last ! " 



214 The Alkahest. 

" Madness ! " cried Balthazar, struggling to his feet. 
He fixed his luminous ej-es upon his daughter, crossed 
his arms on his breast, and repeated the word "Mad- 
ness ! " so majestically that Marguerite trembled. 

"Ah!" he cried, "your mother would never have 
uttered that word to me. She was not ignorant of the 
importance of my researches ; she learned a science to 
understand me : she recognized that I toiled for the 
human race ; she knew there was nothing sordid or 
selfish in my aims. The feelings of a loving wife are 
higher, I see it now, than filial affection. Yes, Love 
is above all other feelings. See reason ! " he went on, 
striking his breast. "Do I lack reason? Am I not 
myself? You say we are poor ; well, my daughter, I 
choose it to be so. I am yoxxx father, obey me. I will 
make you rich when I please. Your fortune? it is a 
pittance ! When I find the solvent of carbon I will 
fill your parlor with diamonds, and they are but a scin- 
tilla of what I seek. You can well afford to wait while 
I consume my life in superhuman efforts." 

' ' Father, I have no right to ask an account of the 
four millions you have already engulfed in this fatal 
garret. I will not speak to you of my mother whom 
you killed. If I had a husband, I should love him, 
doubtless, as she loved jon ; I should be ready to sac- 
rifice all to him, as she sacrificed all for yoxx. I have 
obeyed her orders in giving myself wholly to you ; I 



The Alkahest. 215 

have proved it in not marrying and compelling you to 
render an account of your guardianship. Let us dis- 
miss the past and think of the present. I am here now 
to represent the necessity which you have created for 
yourself. You must have money to meet your notes — 
do you understand me? There is nothing lea to seize 
here but the portrait of your ancestor, the Claea 
martyr. I come in the name of my mother, who felt 
herself too feeble to defend her children against thrir 
father; she ordered me to resist you. I come in the 
name of my brothers and my sister : I come, father, in 
the name of all the Claes, and I command 3'ou to give 
up your experiments, or earn the means of pursuing 
them hereafter, if pursue them you must. If you arm 
3"0urself with the power of your paternity, which you 
emplo}' only for our destruction, I have on my side 
3^our ancestors and 3'our honor, whose voice is louder 
than that of chemistry. The Family is greater than 
Science. I have been too long your daughter." 

"And you choose to be m}- executioner," he said, in 
a feeble voice. 

Marguerite turned and fled away, that she might not 
abdicate the part she had just assumed : she fancied 
she heard again her mother's voice saying to her, " De 
not oppose your father too much ; love liim well." 



216 The Alkahest. 



XII. 

"Mademoiselle has made a pretty piece of work 
up yonder," said Lemulquinier, coming down to the 
kitchen for his breakfast. " We were just going to put 
our hands on the great secret, we only wanted a scrap 
of July sun, for monsieur, — ah, what a man ! he 's 
almost in the shoes of the good God himself ! — was 
almost within that," he said to Josette, clicking his 
thumbnail against a front tooth, " of getting hold of 
the Absolute, when up she came, slam bang, scream- 
ing some nonsense about notes of hand." 

" Well, pay them yourself," said Martha, " out of 
j-our wages." 

"Where's the butter for my bread?" said Lemul- 
quinier to the cook. 

"Where's the money to buy it?" she answered, 
sharply. " Come, old villain, if you make gold in that 
devil's kitchen of yours, why don't you make butter? 
'T would n't be half so difficult, and you could sell it in 
the market for enough to make the pot boil. We all 
eat dry bread. The young ladies are satisfied with dry 
bread and nuts, and do you expect to be better fed 
than your masters? Mademoiselle won't spend more 



The Alkahest. 217 

ihan one hundred francs a month for the whole house- 
hold. There 's only one dinner for all. If you want 
dainties you 've got your furnaces upstairs where you 
fricassee pearls till there's nothing else talketi of iu 
towa. Get your roast chickens up there." 

Lemulquinier took his dry bread and went out. 

" He will go and buy something to eat with his own 
money," said Martha ; "all the better, —it is just so 
much saved. Is n't he stingy, the old scarecrow ! " 

" Starve him ! that's the only way to manage him," said 
Josette. " For a week past he has n't rubbed a single 
floor ; I have to do his work, for he is always upstairs. 
He can verj' weU aflTord to pay me for it with the pres- 
ent of a few herrings ; if he brings any home, I bhall 
lay hands on them, I can tell him that." 

"Ah!" exclaimed Martha, "I hear Mademoiselle 
Marguerite crying. Her wizard of a father would 
swallow the house at a gulp without asking a Christian 
blessing, the old sorcerer ! In my country he 'd bo 
burned alive ; but people here have no more religion 
than 4;he Moors in Africa." 

Marguerite could scared}' stifle her sobs as she came 
through the gallery. She reached her room, took out 
her mother's letter, and read as follows : — 

My Child, — If God so wills, my spirit will be within your 
heart when you read these words, the last I shall ever write; 
they are full of love for my dear ones, left at the mercy of a 



218 The Alkahest. 

demon whom I have not been able to resist. When you read 
these words he will have taken your last crust, just as he 
took my life and squandered my love. You know, my dar- 
ling, if I loved your father: I die loving him less, for I take 
precautions against him which I never could have practised 
while living. Yes, in the depths of my coffin I shall have 
kept a last resource for the day when some terrible misfortune 
overtakes you. If when that day comes you are reduced to 
poverty, or if your honor is in question, my child, send for 
Monsieur de Solis, should he be living, — if not, for his nephew, 
our good Emmanuel; they hold one hundred and seventy thou- 
sand francs which are yours and will enable you to live. 

If nothing shall have subdued his passion ; if his children 
prove no stronger barrier than my happiness has been, and 
cannot stop his criminal career, — leave him, leave your 
father, that you may live. I could not forsake him; I was 
bound to him. You, Marguerite, you must save the family. 
1 absolve you for all you may do to defend Gabriel and Jean 
and Felicie. Take courage; be the guardian angel of the 
Claes. Be firm, — I dare not say be pitiless ; but to repair the 
evil already done you must keep some means at hand. On 
the day when you read this letter, regard yourself as ruined 
already, for nothing will stay the fury of that passion which 
has torn all things from me. 

My child, remember this: the truest love is to forget your 
heart. Even though you be forced to deceive your father, 
your dissimulation will be blessed; your actions, however 
blamable they may seem, will be heroic if taken to protect 
the family. The virtuous Monsieur de Solis tells me so; 
and no conscience was ever purer or more enlightened than 
his. I could never have had the courage to speak these 
words to you, even with my dying breath. 



The Alkahest. 21 "J 

And yet, my daughter, be respectful, be kind in the dreati- 
ful struggle. Resist him, but love him; deny him gently. 
My hidden tears, my inward griefs will be known only when 
I am dead. Kiss my dear children in my name when the 
hour comes and you are called upon to protect them. 

May God and the saints be with youl 

JOSEPUI.NK. 

To this letter was added au acknowloilgnicut from 
the Messieurs de Solis, uncle and nephew, who thereby 
bound themselves to place the money intrusted to them 
by Madame Claes in the hands of whoever of her child- 
ren should present the paper. 

" Martha," cried Marguerite to the duenna, who 
came quickly ; " go to Monsieur Emmanuel de Solis, 
and ask him to come to me. — Noble, discreet heart! 
he never told me," she thought ; " though all my griefs 
and cares are his, he never told me ! " 

Emmanuel came before Martha could get back. 

" You have kept a secret from me," she said, show- 
ing him her mother's letter. 

Emmanuel bent his head. 

" Marguerite, are you in great trouble? " he asked. 

" Yes," she answered ; " be my support, — you, whom 
my mother calls ' our good Emmanuel.' " She showed 
him the letter, unable to repress her joy in knowing 
that her mother approved her choice. 

" My blood and my life were yours on the morrow 
of the day when I first saw you in the gallery," he said ; 



220 The Alkahest. 

" but I scarcely dared to hope the time might come 
when you would accept them. If you know me well, 
you know my word is sacred. Forgive the absolute 
obedience I have paid to your mother's wishes ; it was 
not for me to judge her intentions." 

" You have saved us," she said, interrupting him, 
and taking his arm to go down to the parlor. 

After hearing from Emmanuel the origin of the 
money intrusted to him, Marguerite confided to him 
the terrible straits in which the family now found 
themselves. 

" I must pay those notes at once," said Emmanuel. 
" If Mersktus holds them all, you can at least save the 
interest. I will bring you the remaining seventy thou- 
sand francs. M}" poor uncle left me quite a large sum 
in ducats, which are easy to carry secretly." 

" Oh ! " she said, " bring them at night ; we can hide 
them when my father is asleep. If he knew that I had 
money, he might try to force it from me. Oh, Em- 
manuel, think what it is to distrust a father ! " she said, 
weeping and resting her forehead against the young 
man's heart. 

This sad, confiding movement, with which the young 
girl asked protection, was the first expression of a love 
hitherto wrapped in melancholy and restrained within 
a sphere of grief: the heart, too full, was forced to 
overflow beneath the pressure of this new misery. 



The Alkahest. '221 

"What can we do; what will become of us? He 
sees nothing, he cares for nothing, — neither for us nor 
for himself. I know not how he can Uve in that garret, 
where the air is stifling." 

" What can you expect of a man who calls inces- 
santly, like Richard III., ' My kingdom for a horse'?" 
said Emmanuel. "He is pitiless; and in that you 
must imitate him. Pay his notes ; give him, if you will, 
your whole fortune ; but that of your sister and of your 
brothers is neither yours nor his." 

"Give him my fortune?" she said, pressing her 
lover's hand and looking at him with ardor in her eyes ; 
"you advise it, you! — and Pierquin told a hundred 
lies to make me keep it ! " 

"Alas! I may be selfish in m}- own wa}'," he said. 
" Sometimes I long for 3-ou without fortune ; you seem 
nearer to me then ! At other times I want you rich and 
happy, and I feel how paltr}' it is to think that the poor 
grandeurs of wealth can separate us." 

" Dear, let us not speak of ourselves." 

"Ourselves!" he repeated, with rapture. Then, 
after a pause, he added : " The exML is great, but it is 
not irreparable." 

" It can be repaired only by us : the Claes family has 
now no head. To reach the stage of being neither father 
nor man, to have no consciousness of justice or injus- 
tice (for, in defiance of the laws, he has dissipaU-d — 



222 The Alkahest. 

he, so great, so noble, so upright — the propert}' of the 
children he was bound to defend), oh, to what depths 
must he have fallen ! My God I what is this thing he 
seeks ? " 

" Unfortunately^ dear Marguerite, wrong as he is in 
his relation to his family, he is right scientifically. A 
score of men in Europe admire him for the ver}' thing 
which others count as madness. But nevertheless j'ou 
must, without scruple, refuse to let him take the prop- 
erty of his children. Great discoveries have always 
been accidental. If your father ever finds the solution 
of the problem, it will be when it costs him nothing ; in 
a moment, perhaps, when he despairs of it." 

" My poor mother is happy," said Marguerite ; " she 
would have suffered a thousand deaths before she died : 
as it was, her first encounter with Science killed her. 
Alas ! the strife is endless." 

"There is an end," said Emmanuel. "When you 
have nothing left. Monsieur Claes can get no further 
credit ; then he will stop." 

"Let him stop now, then," cried Marguerite, "for 
we are without a penny ! " 

Monsieur de Soils went to buy up Claes's notes and 
returned, bringing them to Marguerite. Balthazar, con- 
trarj' to his custom, came down a few moments before 
dinner. For the first time in two years his daughter 
noticed the signs of a human grief upon his face : he 



TJie Alkahest. 223 

was again a father, reason ami jiulgmont had ovorcomo 
Science ; he looked into the court-yard, then into iho 
garden, and when certain that he was alone with bin 
daughter, he came up to her with a look of mclaueholy 
kindness. 

" My child," he said, taking her hand and pressing 
it with persuasive tenderness, '* forgive your old fatiier. 
Yes, Marguerite, I have done wrong. You sixike Irulv. 
So long as I have not foimd I am a miserable wretch. 
I will go away from here. I cannot see Van Claes 
sold," he went on, pointing to the martyr's i)orlrait. 
" He died for Liberty, I die for Science ; he is vent-r- 
ated, I am hated." 

" Hated? oh, mj' father, no," she cried, throwing 
herself on his breast ; " we all adore you. Do we not, 
Felicie ? " she said, turning to her sister who came iu 
at the moment. 

" What is the matter, dear father?" said his young- 
est daughter, taking his hand. 

" I have ruined you." 

"Ah! " cried Felicie, " but our brothers will make 
our fortune. Jean is always at the head of his class." 

"See, father," said Marguerite, leading Hullhazar 
in a coaxing, filial way to the chimnej'-piece and taking 
some papers from beneath the clock, "here arc your 
notes of hand ; but do not sign any more, there i* 
nothing left to pay them with — " 



224 The Alkahest. 

"Then you have money?" whispered Balthazar in 
her ear, when he recovered from his surprise. 

His words and manner tortured the heroic girl ; she 
saw the delii'ium of joy and hope in her father's face as 
he looked about him to discover the gold. 

" Father," she said, " I have mj' own fortune." 

"Give it to me," he said with a rapacious gesture; 
" I will return you a hundred-fold." 

" Yes, I will give it to you," answered Marguerite, 
looking gravely at Balthazar, who did not know the 
meaning she put into her words. 

" Ah, my dear daughter ! " he cried, " you save my 
life. I have thought of a last experiment, after which 
nothing more is possible. If, this time, I do not find 
the Absolute, I must renounce the search. Come to 
my arms, my darling child ; I will make you the 
happiest woman upon earth. You give me glory ; yon 
bring me back to happiness ; you bestow the power to 
heap treasures upon my children — yes ! I will load 
you with jewels, with wealth." 

He kissed his daughter's forehead, took her hands 
and pressed them, and testified his joy by fondhng ca- 
resses which to Marguerite seemed almost obsequious. 
During the dinner he thought only of her ; he looked 
at her eagerly with the assiduous devotion displayed 
by a lover to his mistress : if she made a movement, 
he tried to divine her wish, and rose to fulfil it; he 



The Alkaheft. 225 

made her ashamed by the youthful eagerneas of his 
attentions, which were painfully out of keei)ing with hia 
premature old age. To all these cajoleries, Marguerit« 
herself presented the contrast of actual distress, shown 
sometimes by a word of doubt, sometimes by a glauco 
along the empty shelves of the sideboards in the dining- 
room. 

" Well, well," he said, following her ej-e, "in six 
months we shall fill them again with gold, and marvi-l- 
lous things. You shall be hke a queen. Bah ! nature 
herself will belong to us, we shall rise above all cn-atctl 
beings — thi-ough you, you, my Marguerite ! Marga- 
rita," he said, smiUng, "thy name is a prophecy. 
' Margarita ' means a pearl. Sterne says so somewhere. 
Did you ever read Sterne ? Would you like to have a 
Sterne ? it would amuse you." 

" A pearl, the}- say, is the result of a disease," she 
answered ; " we have suffered enough already." 

"Do not be sad; 30U will make the happiness of 
those you love ; 30U shall be rich and all-powerful." 

"Mademoiselle has got such a gootl heart," said 
Lemulquinier, whose seamed face stretched itself pain- 
fully into a smile. 

For the rest of the evening Balthazar displayed to his 
daughters all the natural graces of his character uiid 
the charms of his conversation. Seductive as the ser- 
pent, his lips, his eyes, poured out a magnetic fluid ; he 

15 



226 The Alkahest. 

put forth that power of genius, that gentleness of spirit 
which once fascinated Josephine and now drew, as it 
were, his daughters into his heart. When Emmanuel de 
Soils came he found, for the first time in manj^ months, 
the father and the children reunited. The young pro- 
fessor, in spite of his reserve, came under the influence 
of the scene ; for Claes's manners and conversation had 
recovered their former irresistible seduction ! 

Men of science, plunged though they be in abysses of 
thought and ceaselessly employed in studying the moral 
world, take notice, nevertheless, of the smallest details 
of the sphere in which they live. More out of date with 
their surroundings than really absent-minded, the}' are 
never in harmony with the life about them ; they know 
and forget all ; they prejudge the future in their own 
minds, prophesy to their own souls, know of an event 
before it happens, and yet they say nothing of all this. 
If, in the hush of meditation, thej' sometimes use their 
power to observe and recognize that which goes on 
around them, they are satisfied with having divined its 
meaning; their occupations hurry them on, and they 
frequently make false application of the knowledge ihey 
have acquired about the things of life. Sometimes 
they wake from their social apath}^ or they drop from 
the world of thought to the world of life ; at such times 
they come with well-stored memories, and are by no 
means strangers to what is happening. 



TJie Alkahett. O'"* 



>>< 



Balthazar, who joined the perspicacity of the heart to 
that of the brain, knew his daughter's whole pa*.t ; he 
knew, or he had guessed, the history of the hidden love 
that united her with Emmanuel : he now showed this 
delicately, and sanctioned their affection ]»y tiikintr imrl 
in it. It was the sweetest flattery a father could l>e- 
stow, and the lovers were unable to resist it. The even- 
ing passed delightfully, — contrasting with the priefs 
which threatened the lives of these poor children. 
When Balthazar retired, after, as we may say, filUng his 
family with light and bathing them with tenderness, 
Emmanuel de Solis, who had shown some embarniss- 
ment of manner, took from his pockets three thousand 
ducats in gold, the possession of which he had fcunxl 
to betraj*. He placed them on the work-table, where 
Marguerite covered them with some linen she was 
mending ; and then he went to his own house to fet4-h 
the rest of the mone}'. "When he returned, Felicic hail 
gone to bed. Eleven o'clock struck ; Martha, who sat 
up to undress her mistress, was still with Felicie. 

"Where can we hide it?" said Marguerite, unable 
to resist the pleasure of playing with the gold ducats, — 
a childish amusement which proved disastrous. 

"I will lift this marble pedestal, which is hollow," 
said Emmanuel; "you can slip in the packages, and 
the devil himself will not think of looking for them 
there." 



228 The Alkahest. 

Just as Marguerite was making her last trip but one 
from the work-table to the pedestal, carrying the gold, 
she suddenly gave a piercing cry, and let fall the pack- 
ages, the covers of which broke as they fell, and the 
coins were scattered about the room. Her father stood 
at the parlor door ; the avidity of his eyes terrified her. 

"What are you doing?" he said, looking first at 
his daughter, whose terror nailed her to the floor, and 
then at the young man, who had hastily sprung up, — 
though his attitude beside the pedestal was suflEiciently 
significant. The rattle of the gold upon the ground 
was horrible, the scattering of it prophetic. 

" I could not be mistaken," said Balthazar, sitting 
down ; " I heard the sound of gold." 

He was not less agitated than the 3'oung people, whose 
hearts were beating so in unison that their throbs might 
be heard, like the ticking of a clock, amid the profound 
silence which suddenly settled on the parlor. 

"Thank you, Monsieur de Soils," said Marguerite, 
giving Emmanuel a glance which meant, " Come to m}* 
rescue and help me to save this money." 

" "What gold is this? " resumed Balthazar, casting at 
Marguerite and Emmanuel a glance of terrible clear- 
sightedness. 

"This gold belongs to Monsieur de Soils, who is 
kind enough to lend it to me that I may pay our debts 
honorably," she answered. 



The Alkahest. 2*29 

Emmanuel colored and turned as though about tr 
leave the room : Balthazar caught him by tlie arm. 

"Monsieur," he said, "you must not escape my 
thanks." 

" Monsieur, you owe me none. This money belongs 
to Mademoiselle Marguerite, who Iwrrows it from me 
on the security of her own property," Emmanuel re- 
plied, looking at his mistress, who thankwl hiui wiUi 
an almost imperceptible movement of her eveUils. 

" I shall not aUow that," said ClaiJs, taking a j>on 
and a sheet of paper from the table whore Fclicio did 
her writing, and turning to the astonished young jmx)- 
pie. "How much is it?" His eager passion m.ndo 
him more astute than the wiliest of rascally bailiffs : 
the sum was to be his. Marguerite and Monsieur de 
Solis hesitated. 

" Let us count it," he said. 

" There are six thousand ducats," said Emmanuel. 

" Seventy thousand francs," remarked Clacs. 

The glance which Marguerite threw at her lover gave 
him courage. 

" Monsieur," he said, " your note bears no value ; 
pardon this purely technical term. I have to-day lent 
Mademoiselle Claes one hundred thousand francs to 
redeem your notes of hand which you had no means of 
paying : you are therefore unable to give me any secur- 
it}'. These one hundred and seventy thousand franca 



230 The Alkahest. 

belong to Mademoiselle Claes, who can dispose of 
them as she sees fit ; but I have lent them on a 
pledge that she will sign a deed securing them to me 
on her share of the now denuded land of the forest 
of Waignies." 

Marguerite turned awa}' her head that her lover might 
not see the tears that gathered in her eyes. She knew 
Emmanuel's purity of soul. Brought up by his uncle 
to the pi'actice of the sternest religious virtues, the 
young man had an especial horror of falsehood : after 
giving his heart and life to Marguerite Claes he now 
made her the sacrifice of his conscience. 

"Adieu, monsieur," said Balthazar, " I thought you 
had more confidence in a man who looked upon you 
with the eyes of a father," 

After exchanging a despairing look with Marguerite, 
Emmanuel was shown out by Martha, who closed and 
fastened the street-door. 

The moment the father and daughter were alone Claes 
said, — 

" You love me, do j^ou not?" 

" Come to the point, father. You want this money : 
you cannot have it." 

She began to pick up the coins ; her father silentl}'- 
helped her to gather them together and count the sum 
she had dropped ; Marguerite allowed him to do so with- 
out manifesting the least distrust. When two thousand 



The Alkahegt. '2?,\ 

ducats were piled on the table, Balthazur said, with a 
desperate air, — 

" Marguerite, I must have that money." 

" If you take it, it will be robbery," she replied 
coldly. " Hear me, father: better kill us at one blow 
than make us suffer a hundred deaths a day. Let it 
now be seen which of us must yield." 

" Do you mean to kill your father? " 

" We avenge our mother," she said, ix»intiug to the 
spot where Madame Claes died. 

*' My daughter, if you knew the truth of this nmtt*T, 
you would not use those words to me. Listen, ami I 
will endeavor to explain the great problem — but no, 
you cannot comprehend me," he cried in accents of 
despair. "Come, give me the money; believe for 
once in 3'our father. Yes, I know I caused your 
mother pain : I have dissipated — to use the worti of 
fools — my own fortune and injured 3'ours ; I know my 
children are sacrificed for a thing you call madness ; 
but my angel, my darling, my love, my MargiK-rite, 
hear me ! If I do not now succeed, I will give myself 
up to you ; I will obe}' you as you arc bound to obey 
me ; I will do j'our will ; you shall take charge of all 
my property ; I will no longer be the guardian of ray 
children ; I pledge myself to lay down my authority. I 
swear by your mother's memory ! " he cried, shedding 
tears. 



232 The Alkahest. 

Marguerite turned away her head, unable to bear the 
sight. Claes, thinking she meant to yield, flung him- 
self on his knees beside her. 

" Marguerite, Marguerite ! give it to me — give it ! " 
he cried. " What are sixty thousand francs against 
eternal remorse? See, I shall die, this will kill me. 
Listen, mv word is sacred. If I fail now I wiU abandon 
my labors ; I will leave Flanders, — France even, if you 
demand it ; I will go away and toil like a day-laborer 
to recover, sou by sou, the fortunes I have lost, and 
restore to my children all that Science has taken from 
them." 

Marguerite tried to raise her father, but he per- 
sisted in remaining on his knees, and continued, still 
weeping : — 

" Be tender and obedient for this last time ! If I do 
not succeed, I will myself declare j'our hardness just. 
You shall call me a fool ; you shall say I am a bad 
father ; you may even tell me that I am ignorant and 
incapable. And when I hear you say those words I 
will kiss your hands. You may beat me, if you will, 
and when you strike I will bless you as the best of 
daughters, remembering that you have given me your 
blood." 

"If it were my blood, my life's blood, I would give 
it to you," she cried; " but can I let Science cut the 
throats of my brothers and my sister? No. Cease, 



The Alkahest. 238 

cease ! " she said, wiping her tears and pushing aside 
her father's caressing hands. 

" Sixty thousand francs and two months," he said, 
rising in anger; " that is all I want: but my daughU-r 
stands between me and fame and wealth. I curse 
you!" he went on; ''you are no daughter of mine, 
you are not a woman, you have no heart, you will 
never be a mother or a wife ! — Give it to me, let 
me take it, my little one, my precious child, I will love 
you forever," — and he stretched his hand with a 
movement of hideous energv towards the sold. 

" I am helpless against physical force ; but God and 
the great Claes see us now," she said, ix)inting to the 
picture. 

*' Try to live, if j'ou can, with your father's bloocl 
upon you," cried Balthazar, looking at her with abhor- 
rence. He rose, glanced round the room and slowly 
left it. When he reached the door he turned as a beg- 
gar might have done and implored his daughter with a 
gesture, to which she replied b}- a negative motion of 
her head. 

" Farewell, vay daughter," he said, gently, " may you 
live happy ! " 

When he had disappeared, Marguerite remained in a 
trance which separated her from earth ; she was no 
longer in the parlor ; she lost consciousness of phys- 
ical existence ; she had wings, and soared amid the 



234 The Alkahest. 

immensities of the moral world, where Thought con- 
tracts the limits both of Time and Space, where a 
divine hand lifts the veil of the Future. It seemed 
to her that days elapsed between each footfall of her 
father as he went up the stairs ; then a shudder of 
dread went ©ver her as she heard him enter his cham- 
ber. Guided by a presentiment which flashed into her 
soul with the piercing keenness of lightning, she ran up 
the stairway, without light, without noise, with the ve- 
locity of an arrow, and saw her father with a pistol at 
his head. 

" Take all ! " she cried, springing towards him. 

She fell into a chair. Balthazar, seeing her pallor, 
began to weep as old men weep ; he became like a 
child, he kissed her brow, he spoke in disconnected 
words, he almost danced with joy, and tried to play 
with her as a lover with a mistress who has made him 
happy. 

"Enough, father, enough," she said; "remember 
your promise. If you do not succeed now, 3'ou pledge 
yourself to obey me ? " 

" Yes." 

' ' Oh, mother ! " she cried turning towards Madame 
Claes's chamber, '-''you would have given him all — 
would 3^ou not ? " 

" Sleep in peace," said Balthazar, "you are a good 
daughter." 



The Alhih^^t. 235 

"Sleep!" she said, ''the nights of my youth are 
gone; you have made me old. father, just as \o\x 
slowly withered my mother's heart." 

" Poor child, would I could re-assure you by explain- 
ing the effects of the glorious experiment I have now 
imagined ! 30U would then comprehend the truth." 

" I comprehend our ruin," she said, leaving him. 

The next morning, being a holiday, Enmianui'l de 
SoUs brought Jean to spend the day. 

" "Well? " he said, approaching Marguerite anxiously. 

" I yielded," she replied. 

"My dear life," he said, with a gesture of molan- 
chol}' joy, "if you had withstood him I should greatly 
have admired you ; but weak and feeble, I adore you I " 

" Poor, poor Emmanuel ; what is left for us? " 

"Leave the future to me," cried the young man. with 
a radiant look ; " we love each other, and all is well." 



236 The Alkahest 



XIIL 

Several months went by in perfect tranquillity. 
Monsieur de Solis made Marguerite see that her petty 
economies would never produce a fortune, and he ad- 
vised her to live more at ease, by taking all that remained 
of the sum which Madame Claes had intrusted to him 
for the comfort and well-being of the household. 

During these months Marguerite fell a prey to the 
anxieties which beset her mother under like circum- 
stances. However incredulous she might be, she had 
come to hope in her father's genius. B}^ an inexplicable 
phenomenon, many people have hope where they have 
no faith. Hope is the flower of Desire, faith is the fruit 
of Certainty. Marguerite said to herself, " If my father 
succeeds, we shall be happy." Claes and Lemulquinier 
alone said : " We shall succeed." Unhappily-, from 
day to daj' the Searcher's face grew sadder. Some- 
times, when he came to dinner he dared not look at his 
daughter ; at other times he glanced at her in triumph. 
Marguerite emploj'ed her evenings in making young de 
Solis explain to her many legal points and difficulties. 
At last her masculine education was completed ; she 



The Alkahest. os-r 

was evidently preparing herself to execute the plan she 
had resolved upon if her father were again vauquisheU 
in his duel with the Unknown (X). 

About the beginning of July, Balthazar spent a whole 
day sitting on a bench in the garden, plunged in gloomy 
meditation. He ga^ed at the mound now bare of tulips, 
at the windows of his wife's chamber ; he shuddered, no 
doubt, as he thought of all that his search had cost him : 
his movements betrayed that his thoughts were busy 
outside of Science. Marguerite brought her sewing 
and sat beside him for a while before dinner. 
" You have not succeeded, father?" 
" No, my chUd." 

" Ah ! " said Marguerite, in a gentle voice. " I will 
not say one word of reproach; we are both ecjually 
guilty. I only claim the fulfilment of your promise ; it 
is surely sacred to you — you are a Claes. Your cliikl- 
ren will surround you with love and filial respect ; but 
you now belong to me; 50U owe me obedience. Do 
not be uneasy ; my reign will be gentle, and I will en- 
deavor to bring it quickly to an end. Father, I am 
going to leave you for a month ; I shall be busy with 
your affairs ; for," she said, kissing him on his brow, 
" 3'ou are now m}' child. I take Martha with me ; to- 
morrow Felicie will manage the household. Tlie poor 
child is only seventeen, and she will not know how to 
resist you ; therefore be generous, do not ask her for 



238 The Alkahest. 

money ; she has on!}' enough for the barest necessaries 
of the household. Take courage : renounce your labors 
and your thoughts for three or four years. The great 
problem may ripen towards discover}' ; b}' that time I 
shall have gathered the money that is necessary to solve 
it, — and you will solve it. Tell me, father, your queen 
is clement, is she not?" 

" Then all is not lost?" said the old man. 

*' No, not if you keep your word." 

" I will obey you, my daughter," answered Claes, 
with deep emotion. 

The next day, Monsieur Conyncks of Cambrai came 
to fetch his great-niece. He was in a travelling-car- 
riage, and would only remain long enough for Mar- 
guerite and Martha to make their last arrangements. 
Monsieur Claes received his cousin with courtesy, but 
he was evidently sad and humiliated. Old Conyncks 
guessed his thoughts, and said with blunt frankness 
while they were breakfasting : — 

"I have some of your pictures, cousin; I have a 
taste for pictures, — a ruinous passion, but we all have 
our manias." 

" Dear uncle ! " exclaimed Marguerite. 

" The world declares that you are ruined, cousin ; but 
the treasure of a Claes is there," said Conyncks, tapping 
his forehead, "and here," striking his heart; "don't 
you think so ? I count upon you : and for that reason, 



The Alkahest. 239 

haAdng a few spare ducats in my waUet, I put thi-m to 
use in 3'our service," 

"Ah!" cried Balthazar, -I wUl repay you with 
treasures — " 

"The only treasures we possess in Flanders are pa- 
tience and labor," replied Conyncks, sternly. -Our 
ancestor has those words engraved ui>on his brow." ho 
said, pointing to the portrait of Van Claijs. 

Marguerite kissed her father and bade him gooil-bv. 
gave her last directions to Josette and to Felicie, and 
started with Monsieur Conyncks for Paris. The great- 
uncle was a widower with one child, a daughter twelve 
years old, and he was possessed of an immense fortum*. 
It was not impossible that he would take a wife ; c-on- 
sequently, the good people of Douai believed Unit Ma- 
demoiselle Claes would marry her great-uncle. The 
rumor of this marriage reached Pierquin, and brought 
him back in hot haste to the House of Clacs. 

Great changes had taken place in the ideas of that 
clever speculator. For the last two years society in 
Douai had been divided into hostile camps. The no- 
bilit}' formed one circle, the bourgeoisie another; the 
latter naturally inimical to the former. This sudden 
separation took place, as a matter of fact, all over 
France, and divided the country into two warring na- 
tions, whose jealous squabbles, always augmenting, were 
among the chief reasons why the revolution of July, 



240 The Alkahest. 

1830, was accepted in the provinces. Between these 
social camps, the one ultra-monarchical, the other ultra- 
liberal, were a number of functionaries of various kinds, 
admitted, according to their importance, to one or the 
other of these circles, and who, at the moment of the fall 
of the legitimate power, were neutral. At the beginning 
of the struggle between the nobility and the bourgeoisie, 
the royalist " cafes" displayed an unheard-of splendor, 
and eclipsed the liberal " cafes " so brilliantly that these 
gastronomic fetes were said to have cost the lives of 
some of their frequenters who, like ill-cast cannon, were 
unable to withstand such practice. The two societies 
naturally became exclusive. 

Pierquin, though rich for a provincial lawyer, was 
excluded from aristocratic circles and driven back upon 
the bourgeoisie. His self-love must have suffered from 
the successive rebuffs which he received when he felt 
himself insensibly set aside by people with whom he 
had rubbed shoulders up to the time of this social 
change. He had now reached his fortieth year, the 
last epoch at which a man who intends to marry can 
think of a 3'oung wife. The matches to which he was 
able to aspire were all among the bourgeoisie, but am- 
bition prompted him to enter the upper circle by means 
of some creditable alliance. 

The isolation in which the Claes family were now 
living had hitherto kept them aloof from these social 



The Alkahest. o-il 

changes. Though Claes belonged to the old amtoc- 
racy of the province, his preoccupaUon of mind piv- 
vented him from sharing the class auUpalhies thus 
created. However poor a daughter of the Claes might 
be, she would bring to a husband the dower of social 
vanity so eagerly desired by all parvenus. Pierquiu 
therefore returned to his allegiance, with the secret in- 
tention of making the necessary sacrifices to conclude a 
marriage which should reaUze all his ambitions. Hi- 
kept company with Balthazar and Ft-licie during Mar- 
guerite's absence ; but in so doing he discovered, rather 
late in the day, a formidable competitor in Emmanuel de 
Solis. The property of the deceased abbe was thought 
to be considerable, and to the eyes of a man who cal- 
culated all the affairs of life in figures, the young heir 
seemed more powerful through his money tliau through 
the seductions of the heart — as to which Picrquin never 
made himself uneasy. In his mind the abbe's fortune 
restored the de Solis name to all its pristine value. 
Gold and nobility of birth were two orbs which reflected 
lustre on one another and doubled the illumination. 

The sincere affection which the young professor testi- 
fied for Felicie, whom he treated as a sister, excited 
Pierquin's spirit of emulation. lie tried to eclipse Em- 
manuel b}' mingling a fashionable jargon and sundry 
expressions of supei-ficial gallantry with anxious elegies 

and business airs which sat more naturally on his coun* 

16 



242 The Alkahest. 

tenance. When he declared himself disenchanted with 
the world he looked at Felicie, as if to let her know 
that she alone could reconcile him with life, Felicie, 
who received for the first time in her life the compliments 
of a man, listened to this language, always sweet how^ 
ever deceptive ; she took emptiness for depth, and need- 
ing an object on which to fix the vague emotions of her 
heart, she allowed the law3'er to occupy her mind. En- 
vious perhaps, though quite unconsciously, of the loving 
attentions with which Emmanuel surrounded her sister, 
she doubtless wished to be, like Marguerite, the object 
of the thoughts and cares of a man. 

Pierquin readily perceived the preference which Fe- 
licie accorded him over Emmanuel, and to him it was a 
reason why he should persist in his attentions ; so that 
in the end he went further than he at first intended. 
Emmanuel watched the beginning of this passion, false 
perhaps in the lawyer, artless in Felicie, whose future 
was at stake. Soon, little colloquies followed, a few 
words said in a low voice behind Emmanuel's back, 
trifling deceptions which give to a look or a word a 
meaning whose insidious sweetness may be the cause of 
innocent mistakes. Reljing on his intimacy with Fe- 
licie, Pierquin tried to discover the secret of Marguerite's 
journey, and to know if it were really a question of her 
marriage, and whether he must renounce all hope ; but, 
notwithstanding his clumsy cleverness in questioning 



The Alkahegf. 243 

them, neither Balthazar nor Felicie could give him 
any light, for the good reason that they were in the 
dark themselves: Marguerite in taking the reios of 
power seemed to have followed its maxims and kept 
silence as to her projects. 

The gloomy sadness of Balthazar and his great de- 
pression made it difficult to get through tlie evenings. 
Though Emmanuel succeeded in making him play back- 
gammon, the chemist's mind was never present ; during 
most of the time this man, so great in intellect, seemeil 
simply stupid. Shorn of his expectations, ashamed of 
having squandered three fortunes, a gambler without 
money, he bent beneath the weight of ruin, beneath the 
burden of hopes that were betrayed rather than annihi- 
lated. This man of genius, gagged by dire necessity and 
upbraiding himself, was a tragic spectacle, fit to toueh 
the hearts of the most unfeeling of men. Even rierquin 
could not enter without respect the presence of tliat 
caged lion, whose e3'es, full of baffled power, now calmed 
by sadness and faded from excess of light, sooraeil to 
proffer a prater for charity which the mouth dared not 
utter. Sometimes a lightning flash crossed that witli- 
ered face, whose fires revived at the conception of a 
new experiment ; then, as he looked about the parlor, 
Balthazar's ejes would fasten on tlie spot where his wife 
had died, a film of tears rolled like hot grains of sand 
across the arid pupils of his eyes, which thought had 



244 The Alkahest, 

made immense, and his liead fell forward on his breast 
Like a Titan he had lifted the world, and the world fel\ 
on his breast and crushed him. 

This gigantic grief, so manfully controlled, affected 
Pierquin and Emmanuel powerfully, and each felt moved 
at times to offer this man the necessary money to renew 
his search, — so contagious are the convictions of genius ! 
Both understood how it was that Madame Claes and 
Marguerite had flung their all into the gulf ; but reason 
promptly checked this impulse of their hearts, and their 
emotion was spent in efforts at consolation which still 
further embittered the anguish of the doomed Titan. 

Claes never spoke of his eldest daughter, and showed 
no interest in her departure nor any anxiety as to her 
silence in not writing either to him or to Felicie. When 
de Soils or Pierquin asked for news of her he seemed 
annoyed. Did he suspect that Marguerite was working 
against him? Was he humiliated at having resigned 
the majestic rights of paternity to his own child ? Had 
he come to love her less because she was now the father, 
he the child? Perhaps there were many of these rea- 
sons, many of these inexpressible feelings which float 
like vapors through the soul, in the mute disgrace which 
he laid upon Marguerite. However great may be the 
great men of the earth, be they known or unknown, 
fortunate or unfortunate in their endeavors, all have 
littlenesses which belong to human nature. By a 



The Alkahest. 245 

double misfortune they suffer through their greatness 
not less than through their defects ; and perhaps Bal- 
thazar needed to grow accustoaaed to the pane's of 
wounded vanity. The life he was leading, the evenings 
when these four persons met together in ^largueritt-'s 
absence, were full of sadness and vague, uneasv appre- 
hensions. The days were barren like a i)arched-up soil ; 
where, nevertheless a few flowers grew, a few rare con- 
solations, though without Marguerite, the soul, the hope, 
the strength of the family, the atmosphere seemed niistv. 
Two months went by in this way, during which Bal- 
thazar awaited the return of his daughter. Marguerite 
was brought back to Douai by her uncle who remaim-d 
at the house instead of returning to Cambrai, no doubt 
to lend the weight of his authoritj- to some coup iV itat 
planned by his niece. Marguerite's return was made a 
family fete. Pierquin and Monsieur de Solis were in- 
vited to dinner by FeUcie and Balthazar. When the 
travelling-carriage stopped before the house, the four 
went to meet it with demonstrations of joy. ISIargue- 
rite seemed happy to see her home once more, and her 
eyes filled with tears as she crossed the court-yard to 
reach the parlor. When embracing her father she col- 
ored like a guilty wife who is unable to dissimulate ; 
but her face recovered its serenity as she looked at 
Emmanuel, from whom she seemed to gather strength 
to complete a work she had secretly undertaken. 



246 The Alkahest. 

Notwithstandii-g the gayet}^ which animated all pres- 
ent during the dinner, father and daughter watched each 
other with distrust and curiosity. Balthazar asked his 
daughter no questions as to her stay in Paris, doubt- 
less to preserve his parental dignit}'. Emmanuel de 
Solis imitated his reserve ; but Pierquin, accustomed 
to be told all family secrets, said to Marguerite, con- 
cealing his curiosit}^ under a show of liveliness : — 

" "Well, my dear cousin, you have seen Paris and the 
theatres — " 

" I have seen little of Paris," she said ; " I did not 
go there for amusement. The days went by sadly, I 
was so impatient to see Douai once more." 

"Yes, if I had not been angry about it she would 
not have gone to the Opera ; and even there she was 
uneas}'," said Monsieur Con^-ncks. 

It was a painful evening ; every one was embarrassed 
and smiled vaguel}' with the artificial gaj-ety which hides 
such real anxieties. Marguerite and Balthazar were a 
prey to cruel, latent fears which reacted on the rest. 
As the hours passed, the bearing of the father and 
daughter grew more and more constrained. Sometimes 
Marguerite tried to smile, but her motions, her looks, the 
tones of her voice betra^'ed a keen anxiet3^ Messieurs 
Conyncks and de Solis seemed to know the meaning 
of the secret feelings which agitated the noble girl, and 
they appeared to encourage her bj- expressive glances. 



The Alkahest. 247 

Balthazar, hurt at being kept from a knowledge of the 
steps that had been taken on his behalf, withdrew Utile 
by little from his chUdren and friends, and iwint^Kllv 
kept silence. Marguerite would no doubt soon disclose 
what she had decided upon for his future. 

To a great man, to a father, the situation was intoler- 
able. At his age a man no longer dissimuhitos in 
his own family ; he became more and more thoutrhtful. 
serious, and grieved as the hour approached wht-n he 
would be forced to meet his civil death. This evening 
covered one of those crises in the inner life of man 
which can onl}' be expressed by imagery. The thunder- 
clouds were gathering in the sk}-, people were laughing 
in the fields ; all felt the heat and knew the storm was 
coming, but they held up their heads and continued 
on their waj". Monsieur Conyncks was the first to 
leave the room, conducted by Balthazar to his cham- 
ber. During the latter's absence Pienjuin and Mon- 
sieur de Solis went away. Marguerite bade the notary 
good-night with much affection ; she said nothing to 
Emmanuel, but she pressed his hand and gave him a 
tearful glance. She sent Felicie away, and when C'laes 
returned to the parlor he found his daughter alone. 

" My kind father," she said in a trembling voice, 
" nothing: could have made me leave home l)ut the 
serious position in which we found ourselves ; but now. 
after much anxiety, after surmounting the greatest 



248 The Alkahest, 

diflJculties, I return with some chances of deliverance 
for all of us. Thanks to your name, and to my uncle's 
influence, and to the support of Monsieur de Solis, we 
have obtained for you an appointment under govern- 
ment as receiver of customs in Bretagne ; the place is 
worth, they say, eighteen to twenty thousand francs a 
year. Our uncle has given bonds as yom- security. 
Here is the nomination,'' she added, drawing a paper 
from her bag. "Your life in Douai, in this house, 
during the coming years of privation and sacrifice would 
be intolerable to you. Our father must be placed in a 
situation at least equal to that in which he has always 
lived. I ask nothing from the salary you will receive 
from this appointment ; emploj'' it as you see fit. I will 
only beg you to remember that we have not a penny of 
income, and that we must live on what Gabriel can give 
us out of his. The town shaU know nothing of our 
inner life. If you were still to live in this house you 
would be an obstacle to the means my sister and I are 
about to employ to restore comfort and ease to the 
home. Have I abused the authority you gave me by 
putting you in a position to remake your own fortune ? 
In a few years, if you so wiU, you can easily become 
the receiver-general." 

" In other words, Marguerite," said Balthazar, gently, 
*' you turn me out of my own house." 

*'I do not deserve that bitter reproach," replied the 



The Alkahest. 249 

daughter, quelling the tumultuous beatings of her heart. 
" You will come back to us when you are able to live 
in your native town in a manner becoming to vour 
tlignity. Besides, father, I have your promise. You 
are bound to obey me. My uncle has stayed here that 
he might himself accompany you to Bretagne, and not 
leave you to make the journey alone." 

" I shall not go," said Balthazar, rising ; " I need no 
help from any one to restore my property and pay what 
I owe to my children." 

" It would be better, certainly," rephcd IMargueritc, 
calmly. " But now I ask you to reflect on our resj)oc- 
tive situations, which I will explain in a few words. If 
you stay in this house your children will leave it, so that 
you maj- remain its master." 

" Marguerite ! " cried Balthazar. 

" In that case," she said, continuing her wonls with- 
out taking notice of her father's anger, " it will Ihj 
necessary to notif}' the minister of your refusal, if you 
decide not to accept this honorable and lucrative post, 
which, in spite of our many efforts, we should never 
have obtained but for certain thousand-franc notes my 
uncle shpped into the glove of a lady." 

" My children leave me ! " he exclaimed. 

" You must leave us or we must leave you," she 
said. "If I were your only child, I should do as my 
mother did, without murmuring against my fate' ; but 



250 The Alkahest. 

my brothers and my sister shall not perish beside you 
with hunger and despair. I promised it to her who 
died there," she said, pointing to the place where her 
mother's bed had stood. " We have hidden our troubles 
from you ; we have suffered in silence ; our strength 
is gone. My father, we are not on the edge of an 
abyss, we are at the bottom of it. Courage is not suf- 
ficient to di-ag us out of it ; our efforts must not be 
incessantl}' brought to nought by the caprices of a 
passion." 

"My dear children," cried Balthazar, seizing Mar- 
guerite's hand, " I will help you, I will work, I — " 

" Here is the means," she answered, showing him 
the official letter. 

" But, my darling, the means you offer me are too 
slow ; 3'ou make me lose the fruits of ten years' work, 
and the enormous sums of money which my laborator}' 
represents. There," he said, pointing towards the gar- 
ret, " are our real resources." 

Marguerite walked towards the door, saying, — 

" Father, you must choose." 

"Ah! my daughter, jou are very hard," he replied, 
sitting down in an armchair and allowing her to leave 
him. 

The next morning, on coming downstairs, Marguerite 
learned from Lemulquinier that Monsieur Claes had 
gone out. This simple announcement turned her pale : 



The Alk'ihftt. 251 

her face was so painfully significant that the oM vaiel 
remarked hastily : — 

"Don't be troubled, mademoiselle; monsieur said 
he would be back at eleven o'clock to breiikfii>t. Ho 
did n't go to bed all night. At two in the morning he 
was still standing in the parlor, looking through the 
window at the laboratory. I w:is waiting up in the 
kitchen ; I saw him ; he wept ; he is in trouble. Here 's 
the famous month of July when the sun is able to en- 
rich us all, and if you only would — " 

" Enough," said Marguerite, divining tlie thoughts 
that must have assailed her father's mind. 

A phenomenon which often takes possession of |)or- 
SODS leading sedentary lives had seized upon Balthazar ; 
his life depended, so to speak, on the places with which 
it was identified ; his thought was so wedded to his 
laboratory and to the house he lived in that both were 
indispensable to him, — just as the Bourse becomes a 
necessity to a stock-gambler, to whom the public holi- 
days are so much lost time. Here were his bo|)e8 ; 
here the heavens contained the only atmosphere in 
which his lungs could breathe the breath of life. This 
alliance of places and things with men, which is so 
powerful in feeble natures, becomes almost tyrannical 
in men of science and students. To leave his house 
was, for Balthazar, to renounce Science, to abandon the 
Problem, — it was death. 



252 The Alkahest. 

Marguerite was a prey to anxiety until the breakfast 
hour. The former scene in which Balthazar had meant 
to kill himself came back to her memory, and she 
feared some tragic end to the desperate situation in 
which her father was placed. She came and went rest- 
lessly about the parlor, and quivered every time the 
bell or the street-door sounded. 

At last Balthazar returned. As he crossed the court- 
yard Marguerite studied his face anxiously and could see 
nothing but an expression of stormy grief. "When he 
entered the parlor she went towards him to bid him 
good-morning ; he caught her affectionately round the 
waist, pressed her to his heart, kissed her brow, and 
whispered, — 

" I have been to get m}' passport." 

The tones of his voice, his resigned look, his feeble 
movements, crushed the poor girl's heart ; she turned 
away her head to conceal her tears, and then, unable 
to repress them, she went into the garden to weep at 
her ease. During breakfast, Balthazar showed the 
cheerfulness of a man who had come to a decision. 

"So we are to start for Bretagne, uncle," he said 
to Monsieur Conyncks. "I have always wished to go 
there." 

" It is a place where one can live cheaply," replied 
the old man. 

" Is our father going away ? " cried F^licie. 



The Alkahest. 25S 

Monsieur de Solis entered, bringing Jean. 

"■ You must leave him with me to-day," said Baltha- 
zar, putting his son beside him. '* I am going away 
to-morrow, and I want to bid him good-by." 

Emmanuel glanced at Marguerite, who held down her 
head. It was a gloomy day for the family ; every one 
was sad, and tried to repress both thoughts and tears. 
This was not an absence, it was an exile. All in- 
stinctively felt the humiliation of the father in thus pub- 
licly declaring his ruin by accepting an ofllce and 
leaving his family, at Balthazar's age. At this crisis he 
was great, while Marguerite was firm ; he seemed to 
accept nobly the punishment of faults which the tyran- 
nous power of genius had forced him to commit. When 
the evening was over, and father and daughter were 
again alone, Balthazar, who throughout the day had 
shown himself tender and affectionate as in the first 
years of his fatherhood, held out his hand and said to 
Marguerite with a tenderness that was mingled with 
despair, — 

" Are you satisfied with your father? " 

" You are worthy of him," said Marguerite, pointing 
to the portrait of Van Claes. 

The next morning Balthazar, followed by Lemul- 
quinier, went up to the laboratory, as if to bid farewell 
to the hopes he had so fondly cherished, and which 
in that scene of his toil were Uving things to him. 



254 The Alkahest. 

Master and man looked at each other sadly as they 
entered the garret they were about to leave, perhaps 
forever. Balthazar gazed at the various instruments 
over which his thoughts so long had brooded ; each was 
connected with some experiment or some research. 
He sadly ordered Lemulquinier to evaporate the gases 
and the dangerous acids, and to separate all substances 
which might produce explosions. While taking these 
precautions, he gave way to bitter regrets, like those 
uttered by a condemned man before going to the 
scaffold. 

"Here," he said, stopping before a china capsule 
in which two wires of a voltaic pile were dipped, " is 
an experiment whose results ought to be watched. If 
it succeeds — dreadful thought ! — my children will 
have driven from their home a father who could fling 
diamonds at their feet. In a combination of carbon 
and sulphur," he went on, speaking to himself, " car- 
bon plays the part of an electro-positive substance ; 
the crystallization ought to begin at the negative pole ; 
and in case of decomposition, the carbon would crop 
into crystals — " 

" Ah ! is that how it would be? " said Lemulquinier, 
contemplating his master with admiration. 

"Now here," continued Balthazar, after a pause, 
"the combination is subject to the influence of the 
galvanic battery which may act — " 



TJie Alkahest. 055 

"If monsieur wishes, I can increase its force" 

"No, no; leave it as it is. Perfect slillueaii and 
time are the conditions of crystallization — " 

" Confound it, it takes time enough, that crvsLalU- 
zation," cried the old valet impatiently. 

" Kthe temperature goes down, the sulphide of car- 
bon will crystallize," said Balthazar, continuing to give 
forth shreds of indistinct thoughts which wen- parts of 
a complete conception in his own mind; '• Nut if the 
battery works under certain conditions of which I nm 
ignorant — it must be watched carefully — it is quito 
possible that — Ah! what am I thinking of? It in 
no longer a question of chemistry, m\- friend ; we arc 
to keep accounts in Bretagne." 

Claes rushed precipitately from the lalx)ratory. and 
went downstairs to take a last breakfast witli his 
family, at which Pierquin and Monsieur de Solis were 
present. Balthazar, hastening to end the agony Science 
had imposed upon him, bade his children fan-wt-ll and 
got into the carriage with his uncle, all the family ac- 
companying him to the threshold. There, as Margue- 
rite strained her father to her breast with a despairing 
pressure, he whispered in her ear, " You arc u gfxxl 
girl ; I bear you no ill-will ; " then she dart^'d through 
the court-yard into the parlor, and fliiiig hfrself on her 
knees upon the spot where her mother had diiti. and 
prayed to God to give her strength to accomplinh tlie 



256 The Alkahest. 

hard task that lay before her. She was already 
strengthened by an inward voice, sounding in her 
heart the encouragement of angels and the gratitude 
of her mother, when her sister, her brother, Emmanuel, 
and Pierquin came in, after watching the carriage until 
vt disappeared. 



Tlie Alkahest. 2^7 



XIV. 

"And now, mademoiselle, what do you intend to 
do ! " said Pierquin. 

" Save the family," she answered simply. " Wo 
own nearly thirteen hundred acres at Waiguics. I in- 
tend to clear them, divide them into three farms, put up 
the necessary buildings, and then let them. I believe 
that in a few years, with patience and great economy, 
each of us," motioning to her sister and brother, " will 
have a farm of over four hundred acres, which may bring 
in, some day, a rental of nearly fifteen thousand franca. 
My brother Gabriel will have this house, and all that 
now stands in his name on the Grand-Livre, for his 
portion. We shall then be able to redeem our father's 
property and return it to him free from all encumbrance, 
by devoting our incomes, each of us, to paying otf his 
debts." 

"But, m3' dear cousin," said the lawyer, amazed ni 
Marguerite's understanding of business and her cool 
judgment, "30U will need at least two hundred thou- 
sand francs to clear the land, build your houses, and 

purchase cattle. Where will you get such a sura? " 

17 



258 The Alkahest. 

" That is where m}' difl3culties begin," she said, look- 
ing alternately at Pierquin and de Solis ; " I cannot ask 
it from nay uncle, who has already spent much money 
for us and has given bonds as my father's security." 

" You have friends ! " cried Pierquin, suddenly per- 
ceivina: that the demoiselles Claes were " four-hundred- 
thousand-franc girls," after all. 

Emmanuel de Solis looked tenderly at Marguerite. 
Pierquin, unfortunately for himself, was a notary- still, 
even in the midst of his enthusiasm, and he promptly 
added, — 

" I will lend you these two hundred thousand francs." 

Marguerite and Emmanuel consulted each other with 
a glance which was a flash of light to Pierquin ; Felicia 
colored highly, much gratified to find her cousin as 
o-enerous as she desired him to be. She looked at her 
sister, who suddenly' guessed the fact that during her 
absence the poor girl had allowed herself to be caught 
by Pierquin's meaningless gallantries. 

"You shall onl}' pa}' me five per cent interest," went 
on the lawyer, " and refund the money whenever it is 
convenient to do so ; I will take a mortgage on your 
property. And don't be uneasy ; 3'ou shall onl}' have 
the outlay on j'our improvements to pay ; I will find 
you trustworthy farmers, and do all your business 
gratuitously, so as to help you like a good relation." 

Emmanuel made Marguerite a sign to refuse the 



The Alkaheift. 2o9 

offer, but she was too much occupied in studying the 
changes of her sister's face to i)erceive it. Aft. r a 
slight pause, she looked at the notary with au amused 
smQe, and answered of her own accord, to tlie great joy 
of Monsieur de Solis : — 

" You are indeed a good relation, — I exj)ectetl noUi- 
ing less of you ; but an interest of five jxr cent wouKl 
delay our release too long. I shall wait till my broUier 
is of age, and then we will sell out what he has in the 
Funds." 

Pierquin bit his lip. Emmanuel smiled quietly. 

" Felicie, my dear child, take Jean back to school; 
Martha will go with you," said Marguerite. to ber sister. 
"Jean, my angel, be a good boy; don't tear your 
clothes, for we shall not be rich enough to buy you as 
many new ones as we did. Good-by, little one ; study 
hard." 

F(51icie carried off her brother. 

" Cousin," said Marguerite to Pierquin, " and you. 
monsieur," she said to Monsieur de Solis, " I know you 
have been to see m}' father during my absence, and I 
thank you for that proof of friendship. You will not 
do less I am sure for two poor girls who will bo in n»>e<l 
of counsel. Let us understand each other. When 1 
am at home I shall receive you both with the greatest 
pleasure, but when Felicie is here alone with Josi-tte 
and Martha, I need not tell you that she ought to sec 



260 The Alkahest. 

no one, not even an old friend or the most devoted of 
relatives. Under the circumstances in which we are 
placed, our conduct must be irreproachable. We are 
vowed to toil and solitude for a long, long time." 

There was silence for some minutes. Emmanuel, 
absorbed in contemplation of Marguerite's head, seemed 
dumb. Pierquin did not know what to say. He took 
leave of his cousin with feelings of rage against himself ; 
for he suddenly perceived that Marguerite loved Em- 
manuel, and that he, Pierquin, had just behaved like a 
fool. 

"Pierquin, my friend," he said, apostrophizing him- 
self in the street, " if a man said you were an idiot he 
would tell the truth. What a fool I am ! I 've got 
twelve thousand francs a j'ear outside of m}" business, 
without counting what I am to inherit from my uncle 
des Racquets, which is likely to double my fortune 
(not that I wish him dead, he is so economical), and 
I 've had the madness to ask interest from Mademoi- 
selle Claes ! I know those two are jeering at me now ! 
I must n't think of Marguerite any more. No. After 
all, Felicie is a sweet, gentle little creature, who will suit 
me much better. Marguerite's character is iron ; she 
would want to rule me — and — she would rule me. 
Come, come, let 's be generous ; I wish I was not so 
much of a lawyer : am I never to get that harness off 
my back ? Bless my soul ! I '11 begin to fall in love 



The Alkaheit. 281 

with Felicie, and I won't budge from that sentimenL 
She will have a farm of four hundred and thirty acrt?a, 
which, sooner or later, will be worth twelve or fifWn 
thousand francs a year, for the soil about Waignies Ib 
excellent. Just let my old uncle des Racquet? die, 
poor dear man, and I '11 sell my practice and be a man 
of leisure, with fifty — thou — sand' — francs — a — year. 
My wife is a Claes, I 'm alUed to the great famihcH. 
The deuce ! we '11 see if those Courtcvilles and Magal- 
hens and Savaron de Savarus will refuse to come and 
dine with a Pierquin-Claes-Molina-Nourho. I shall bo 
mayor of Douai ; I '11 obtain the cross, and get to bo 
deputy —in short, everything. Ha, ha! Pierquin, my 
boy, now keep yourself in hand ; no more nonsense, 
because — j-es, on my word of honor — Felicie — Ma- 
demoiselle Felicie Van Claiis — loves you ! " 

When the lovers were left alone Emmanuel held out 
his hand to Marguerite, who did not refuse to put 
her right hand into it. They rose with one impulse 
and moved towards their bench in the garden ; but aa 
they reached the middle of the parlor, the lover could 
not resist his joy, and, in a voice that trembled witli 
emotion, he said, — 

" I have three hundred thousand francs of yours." 
"What!" she cried, "did my poor mother in- 
trust them to you? No? then where did you get 
them." 



262 The Alkahest. 

" Oh, my Marguerite ! all that is mine is yours. "Was 
it not you who first said the word ' ourselves ' ? " 

"Dear Emmanuel!" she exclaimed, pressing the 
hand which still held hers ; and then, instead of going 
into the garden, she threw herself into a low chair. 

" It is for me to thank you," he said, with the voice 
of love, " since you accept all." 

" Oh, m}' dear beloved one," she cried, " this mo- 
ment effaces many a grief and brings the happy future 
nearer. Yes, I accept your fortune," she continued, 
with the smile of an angel upon her lips, "I know the 
way to make it mine." 

She looked up at the picture of Van Claes as if call- 
ing him to witness. The young man's eyes followed 
those of Marguerite, and he did not notice that she took 
a ring from her finger until he heard the words : — 

" From the depths of our greatest misery one com- 
fort rises. My father's indifference leaves me the free 
disposal of myself," she said, holding out the ring. 
"Take it, Emmanuel. My mother valued you — she 
would have chosen you." 

The young man turned pale with emotion and fell on 
his knees beside her, offering in return a ring which he 
always wore. 

" This is my mother's wedding-ring," he said, kissing 
it. " My Marguerite, am I to have no other pledge 
than this?" 



The Alkahest. 268 

She stooped a little tUl her forehead met his Hps. 

"Alas, dear love," she said, greatly agitated, "aro 
we not doing wrong ? We have so long to wait 1 " 

"My uncle used to say that adoration was the daily 
bread of patience, — he spoke of Christians who lovo 
God. That is how I love you ; I have long mingletl uiv 
love for you with my love for Iliui. I am your« a** I 
am His." 

They remained for a few moments in the {kjwct of 
this sweet enthusiasm. It was the calm, sincere effu- 
sion of a feeling which, like an overflowing spring, 
poured forth its superabundance in little wavelets. 
The events which separated tliese lovers prodncetl a 
melancholy which only made their happiness the keener, 
giving it a sense of something sharp, like pain. 

Felicie came back too soon. Emmanuel, inspia-d by 
that delightful tact of love which discerns all feelings, 
left the sisters alone, — exchanging a look with Mar- 
guerite to let her know how much this discretion cost 
him, how hungry his soul was for that happiness so 
long desired, which had just been consecrated by the 
betrothal of their hearts. 

"Come here, little sister," said Marguerite, talking 
Felicie round the neck. Then, passing into the garden 
they sat down on the bench where generation after gen- 
eration had confided to listening hearts their wonls of 
love, their sighs of grief, their meditations and their 



264 The Alkahest. 

projects. In spite of her sister's joyous tone and lively 
manner, Felicie experienced a sensation that was very 
like fear. Marguerite took her hand and felt it tremble. 

" Mademoiselle FeUcie," said the elder, with her lips 
at her sister's ear. "I read j-our soul. Pierquin has 
been here often in m}' absence, and he has said sweet 
words to you, and you have listened to them." Felicie 
blushed. " Don't defend yourself, my angel," continued 
Marguerite, "it is so natural to love! Perhaps your 
dear nature will improve his ; he is egotistical and self- 
interested, but for all that he is a good man, and his 
defects may even add to your happiness. He will love 
you as the best of his possessions ; you will be a part 
of his business affairs. Forgive me this one word, 
dear love ; yon will soon correct the bad habit he has 
acquired of seeing money in everything, by teaching 
him the business of the heart." 

Felicie could only kiss her sister. 

"Besides," added Marguerite, "he has property; 
and his family belongs to the highest and the oldest 
bourgeoisie. But you don't think I would oppose your 
happiness even if the conditions were less prosperous, 
do you?" 

Felicie let fall the words, " Dear sister." 

"Yes, you may confide in me," cried Marguerite, 
*' sisters can surely tell each other their secrets." 

These words, so full of heartiness, opened the way 



The Alkahest. 265 

to one of those delightful conversations in which young 
girls tell all. When Marguerite, expert in love, reached 
an understanding of the real state of Felicie's heart, 
she wound up their talk by saying : — 

''Well, dear child, let us make sure he truly lovM 
you, and — then — " 

"Ah!" cried Felicie, laughing, ''leave me to my 
own devices ; I have a model before my eyes." 

" Saucy child ! " exclaimed Marguerite, kissing her. 

Though Pierquin belonged to the class of men who 
regard marriage as the accomplishment of a social duty 
and the means of transmitting property, and tliough he 
was indifferent to which sister he should marry so lonjf 
as both had the same name and the same dower, he did 
perceive that the two were, to use his own expression, 
" romantic and sentimental girls," adjectives employed 
b}- commonplace people to ridicule the gifts which 
Nature sows with grudging hand along the furrows of 
humanity. The lawyer no doubt said to himself that 
he had better swim with the stream ; and accordingly 
the next day he came to see ^larguerite, and took her 
mysteriously into the little garden, wliere he began to 
talk sentiment, — that being one of the clauses of the 
primal contract which, according to social usage, must 
precede the notarial contract. 

" Dear cousin," he said, " you and I have not always 
been of one mind as to the best means of bringing your 



266 The Alkahest. 

affairs to a happ}' conclusion ; but you do now, I am 
sure, admit that I have always been guided by a great 
desire to be useful to you. Well, yesterday I spoiled 
my offer by a fatal habit which the legal profession 
forces upon us — you understand me? My heart did 
not share in the folly. I have loved you well ; but 
I have a certain perspicacity, legal perhaps, which 
obliges me to see that I do not please you. It is my 
own fault ; another has been more successful than I. 
Well, I come now to tell you, like an honest man, that 
I sincerely love your sister Felicie. Treat me there- 
fore as a brother ; accept my purse, take what yon will 
from it, — the more you take the better you prove your 
regard for me. I am wholly at your service — icithout 
interest, you understand, neither at twelve nor at one 
quarter per cent. Let me be thought worth j' of Felicie, 
that is all I ask. Forgive my defects ; they come from 
business habits ; my heart is good, and I would fling 
myself into the Scarpe sooner than not make my wife 
happy." 

"This is all satisfactory', cousin," answered Mar- 
guerite ; ' ' but my sister's choice depends upon herself 
and also on my father's will." 

"I know that, my dear cousin," said the law^-er, 
' ' but you are the mother of the whole family- ; and I 
have nothing more at heart than that you should judge 
me rightly." 



The Alkahest. 267 

This conversation painU the miml of the honeai 
notary. Later in Hfe, Pierquin became celebraUtl by 
his reply to the commanding oflicer at Saint-Oraer, who 
had invited him to be present at a military fete ; the 
note ran as follows: "Monsieur Pierquin-Claos de 
Molina-Nourho, mayor of the city of Douai, cheva- 
lier of the Legion of honor, will have that of being 
present, etc." 

Marguerite accepted the lawyer's offer only so far a^ 
it related to his professional services, so that she might 
not in an}- degree compromise either her own dignity iw 
a woman, or her sister's future, or her father's authority. 

The next day she conQded Fclicie to the care of 
Martha and Josette (who vowed themselves Ixxly and 
soul to their joung mistress, and seconded all her econ- 
omies) , and started herself for Waignies, where she l>e- 
gan operations, which were judiciously overlooked and 
directed by Pierquin. Devotion was now set down 
as a good speculation in the mind of that worthy man ; 
his care and trouble were in fact an investment, anti he 
had no wish to be niggardly in making it. First ho 
contrived to save Marguerite the trouble of clearing the 
land and working the ground intended for the farms. 
He found three young men, sons of rich farmers, 
who were anxious to settle themselves in life, and he 
succeeded, through the prospect he held out to them of 
the fertility of the land, in making them take leases of 



268 The Alkahest. 

the three farms on which the buildings were to be con- 
structed. To gain possession of the farms rent-free 
for three years the tenants bound themselves to pay 
ten thousand francs a year the fourth year, twelve 
thousand the sixth j'ear, and fifteen thousand for the 
remainder of the term ; to drain the land, make the 
plantations, and purchase the cattle. WhUe the build- 
ings were being put up the farmers were to clear the 
land. 

Four years after Balthazar Claes's departure from his 
home Marguerite had almost recovered the property of 
her brothers and sister. Two hundred thousand francs, 
lent to her by Emmanuel, had sufficed to put up the 
farm buildings. Neither help nor counsel was withheld 
from the brave girl, whose conduct excited the admira- 
tion of the whole town. Marguerite superintended the 
buildings, and looked after her contracts and leases 
with the good sense, acti\nty, and perseverance, which 
women know so weU how to call up when they are ac- 
tuated by a strong sentiment. By the fifth year she 
was able to apply thirty thousand francs from the 
rental of the farms, together with the income from 
the Funds standing in her brother's name, and the pro- 
ceeds of her father's property, towards paying off the 
mortgages on that property and repairing the devasta- 
tion which her father's passion had wrought in the old 
mansion of the Claes. This redemption went on more 



The Alkaheft. 269 

rapidly as the interest account decreased. Emmanuel 
de Soils persuaded Marguerite to take the remaining 
one hundred thousand francs of his uncle's bequi-st, 
and by joining to it twenty thousand francos of his own 
sa\ings, pay off in the third year of her management 
a large slice of the debts. This life of courage, priva- 
tion, and endurance was never relaxed for five years ; 
but all went well, — everything prospered under the 
administration and influence of Marguerite Clacs. 

Gabriel, now holding an appointment under govern- 
ment as engineer in the department of Koads and 
Bridges, made a rapid fortune, aided by his great- 
uncle, in a canal which he was able ^x> construct; 
moreover, he succeeded in pleasing his cousin Made- 
moiselle Conyncks, the idol of her father, and one of 
the richest heiresses in Flanders. In 1824 the whole 
Claes property was free, and the house in the rue de 
Paris had repaired its losses. Pierquin made a formal 
application to Balthazar for the hand of Felicie, and 
Monsieur de Soils did the same for that of Marguerite. 

At the beginning of January-, 1825, Marguerite and 
Monsieur Conyncks left Douai to bring home the exiled 
father, whose return was eagerly desired by all, mid 
who had sent in his resignation that he might return 
to his family and crown their happiness by his presence. 
Marguerite had often expressed a regret at not being 
able to replace the pictures which had formerly adorned 



270 The Alkahest. 

the galleiy and the reception-rooms, before the day 
when her father would return as master of his house. 
In her absence Pierquin and Monsieur de Solis plotted 
with Felicie to prepare a surprise which should make 
the younger sister a sharer in the restoration of the 
House of Claes. The two bought a number of fine pic- 
tures, which they presented to Felicie to decorate the 
gallery. Monsieur Conyncks had thought of the same 
thing. Wishing to testify to Marguerite the satisfaction 
he had taken in her noble conduct and in the self-devo- 
tion with which she had fulfilled her mother's dying 
mandate, he arranged that fifty of his fine pictures, 
among them several of those which Balthazar had 
formerly sold, should be brought to Douai in Margue- 
rite's absence, so that the Claes gallery might once more 
be complete. 

During the 3'ears that had elapsed since Balthazar 
Claes left his home, Marguerite had visited her father 
several times, accompanied by her sister or by Jean. 
Each time she had found him more and more changed ; 
but since her last visit old age had come upon Baltha- 
zar with alarming symptoms, the gravity of which was 
much increased by the parsimon}' with which he lived 
that he might spend the greater part of his salary in ex- 
periments the results of which forever disappointed him. 
Though he was only sixty-five j^ears of age, he appeared 
to be eighty. His eyes were sunken in their orbits, his 



The Alkahest. -j;! 

eyebrows had whitened, only a few hairs reinaintxl as a 
fringe around his skull ; he allowed his boani to grow, 
and cut it off with scissors when its length annoveil 
him; he was bent like a field-laborer, and the t«ondi- 
tion of his clothes had reached a degree of wreUhetl. 
ness which his decrepitude now rendered hidetius. 
Thought still animated that noble face, whose features 
were scarcely discernible under its wrinkles ; but the 
fixity of the e3'es, a certain desperation of manner, a 
restless uneasiness, were all diagnostics of insanity, or 
rather of many forms of insanity. Sometimes a tiiish 
of hope gave him the look of a monomaniac ; at other 
times impatient anger at not seizing a secret which 
flitted before his eyes like a will o' the wisp brought 
symptoms of madness into his face ; or sudden bursta 
of maniacal laughter betrayed his irrationality : but 
during the greater part of the time, he was sunk in 
a state of complete depression which combinetl all tlie 
phases of insanity in the cold melancholy of an iiUot. 
However fleeting and imperceptible these symptDms 
may have been to the eye of strangers, they were, 
unfortunately, only too plain to those who had known 
Balthazar Claes sublime in goodness, noble in heart, 
stately in person, — a Claiis of whom, alas, scarcely a 
vestige now remained. 

Lemulquinier, grown old and wasted like his master 
with incessant toil, had not, like him, been subjected to 



272 The Alkahest. 

the ravages of thought. The expression of the old 
valet's face showed a singular mixture of anxiety and 
admiration for his master which might easily have 
misled an onlooker. Though he listened to Balthazar's 
words with respect, and followed his every movement 
with tender solicitude, he took charge of the servant of 
science very much as a mother takes care of her child, 
and even seemed to protect him, because in the vulgar 
details of life, to which Balthazar gave no thought, he 
actually did protect him. These old men, wrapped in 
one idea, confident of the reality of their hope, stirred 
by the same breath, the one representing the shell, the 
other the soul of their mutual existence, formed a spec- 
tacle at once tender and distressing. 

"When Marguerite and Monsieur de Conyncks arrived, 
they found Claes hving at an inn. His successor had 
not been kept waiting, and was already in possession of 
his oflSice. 



The AlkaJuit. 278 



XV. 

Through all the preoccupations of science, the desire 
to see bis native town, his house, his family, a^^LaU-U 
Balthazar's mind. His daughter's letters liad told him 
of the happ}- familj- events ; he dreamed of crowning 
his career b}- a series of experiments that must lead to 
the solution of the great Problem, and he awaited Mar- 
guerite's arrival with extreme impatience. 

The daughter threw herself into her father's arms and 
wept for jo}'. This time she came to seek a recompense 
for yeai's of pain, and pardon for the exercise of her 
domestic authority. She seemed to herself criminal, like 
those great men who violate the liberties of the jwople 
for the safety of the nation. But she shuddered as she 
now contemplated her fatlier and saw the change whicli 
hud taken place in him since her last visit. Mons'u-ur 
Conyncks shared the secret alarm of his niece, and in- 
sisted on taking Balthazar as soon as possible Ui Douai. 
where the influence of his native place might restore 
him to health and reason amid the happiness of a. re- 
covered domestic life. 

18 



274 The Alkahest. 

After the first transports of the heart were over, 
— which were far warmer on Balthazar's part than 
Marguerite had expected, — he showed a singular 
state of feeling towards his daughter. He expressed 
regret at receiving her in a miserable inn, inquired 
her tastes and wishes, and asked what she would 
have to eat, with the eagerness of a lover ; his man- 
ner was even that of a culprit seeking to propitiate 
a judge. 

Marguerite knew her father so well that she guessed 
the motive of this solicitude ; she felt sure he had con- 
tracted debts in the town which he wished to pay before 
his departure. She observed him carefull}' for a time, 
and saw the human heart in all its nakedness. Bal- 
thazar had dwindled from his true self. The conscious- 
ness of his abasement, and the isolation of his life in the 
pursuit of science made him timid and chUdish in all 
matters not connected with his favorite occupations. 
His daughter awed him ; the remembrance of her past 
devotion, of the energ}" she had displa3-ed, of the powers 
he had allowed her to take away from him, of the wealth 
now at her command, and the indefinable feelings that 
had preyed upon him ever since the day when he had 
abdicated a paternity he had long neglected, — all these 
things affected his mind towards her, and increased her 
importance in his eyes. Conyncks was nothing to him 
beside Marguerite ; he saw onl}' his daughter, he thought 



The Alkahest. 275 



::iO 



only of her, and seemed to fear her, as certain wouk hus- 
bands fear a superior woman who rules them. Wlien 
he raised his eyes and looked at her, Marg:uerite uoticcd 
with distress an expression of fear, like that of a child 
detected in a fault The noble girl was unable to n-con- 
cile the majestic and terrible expression of that bald 
head, denuded by science and by toil, with the puerile 
smile, the eager servility exhibited on the lips and coun- 
tenance of the old man. She suflereil from the contrast 
of that gi-eatness to that littleness, and resolvixi to u»e 
her utmost influence to restore her fiitlier's sense of dig- 
nity before the solemn day on which he wjus to reapiwar 
in the bosom of his family. Her first stop when lliey 
were alone was to ask him, — 

" Do 3'ou owe anything here?" 

Balthazar colored, and replied with an embarrassed 
air: — 

" I don't know, but Lemulquinier can tell you. That 
worth}' fellow knows more about my affairs than I do 
myself." 

Marguerite rang for the valet : when he came she 
studied, almost involuntarily, the faces of the two old 
men. 

" "What does monsieur want?" asked LemulciuiuiiT. 

Marguerite, who was all pride and dignity, frit an 
oppression at her heart as she perceived from the 
tone and manner of the 8er\'ant that some mortifying 



276 The Alkahest. 

familiaritj^ had grown up between her father and the 
comiDanion of his labors. 

" My father cannot make out the account of what he 
owes in this place without you," she said. 

" Monsieur," began Lemulquinier, " owes — " 

At these words Balthazar made a sign to his valet 
which Marguerite intercepted ; it humiliated her. 

" Tell me all that my father owes," she said. 

" Monsieur owes, here, about three thousand francs 
to an apothecary who is a wholesale dealer in drugs ; 
he has supplied us with pearl-ash and lead, and zinc and 
the reagents — " 

" Is that all?" asked Marguerite. 

Again Balthazar made a sign to Lemulquinier, who 
replied, as if under a spell, — 

" Yes, mademoiselle." 

" Very good," she said, " I will give them to you." 

Balthazar kissed her joyously and said, — 

" You are an angel, my child." 

He breathed at his ease and glanced at her with eyes 
that were less sad ; and yet, in spite of this apparent 
joy. Marguerite easily detected the signs of deep anx- 
iety upon his face, and felt certain that the three thou- 
sand francs represented only the pressing debts of his 
laboratory. 

" Be frank with me, father," she said, letting him seat 
her on his knee ; " you owe more than that. Tell me 



The Alkahest. 277 

all, and come back to your home without an clement of 
fear in the midst of the general joy." 

"My dear Marguerite," he said, taking her hands 
and kissing them with a grace that seemed a memory 
of his 3-outh, " you would scold me — " 

"No," she said. 

"Truly?" he asked, giving way to childish expres- 
sions of delight. " Can I tell you all ? will you pay - " 

" Yes," she said, repressing the tears which camo 
into her eyes. 

" Well, I owe — oh ! I dare not — " 

" TeU me, father." 

" It is a great deal." 

She clasped her hands, with a gesture of despair. 

" I owe thirt}' thousand francs to Messieurs Protcz 
and Chiffreville." 

" Thirty thousand francs," she said, " is just the 
sum I have laid by. I am glad to give it to you," she 
added, respectfully kissing his brow. 

He rose, took his daughter in his arms and whirled 
about the room, dancing her as though she were an in- 
fant ; then he placed her in the chair where she liatl 
been sitting, and exclaimed : — 

" My darling child! my treasure of love I I was 
half-dead : the Chiffrevilles have written rac three 
threatening letters ; they were about to sue me, — 
me, who would have made their fortune ! " 



278 The Alkahest. 

" Father," said Marguerite in accents of despair, 
"are you still searching?" 

" Yes, still searching," he said, with the smile of a 
madman, " and I shall find. If you could only under- 
stand the point we have reached — " 

" "We? who are we? " 

" I mean Mulquinier : he has understood me, he loves 
me. Poor fellow ! he is devoted to me." 

Conyncks entered at the moment and interrupted the 
conversation. Marguerite made a sign to her father to 
say no more, fearing lest he sliould lower himself in her 
uncle's eyes. She was frightened at the ravages thought 
had made in that noble mind, absorbed in searching for 
the solution of a problem that was perhaps insoluble. 
Balthazar, who saw and knew nothing outside of his 
furnaces, seemed not to realize the liberation of his 
fortune. 

On the morrow i\iey started for Flanders. During 
the journey Marguerite gained some confused light 
upon the position in which Lemulquinier and her father 
stood to each other. The valet had acquired an as- 
cendency over his master such as common men with- 
out education are able to obtain over great minds to 
whom the J' feel themselves necessary ; such men, tak- 
ing advantage of concession after concession, aim at 
complete dominion with the persistency that comes 
of a fixed idea. In this case the master had contracted 



The Alkahest. 279 

for the man the sort of affection that grows out of 
habit, like that of a workman for his creative tool, or 
an Arab for the horse that gives him freeilom. Mar- 
guerite studied the signs of this tyranny, resolving to 
withdraw her father from its humihating yoke if it were 
real. 

They stopped several days in Paris on the way home, 
to enable Marguerite to pay off her father's debts mid 
request the manufacturers of chemical prmlucts to send 
nothing to Douai without first informing her of any 
orders given by Claes. She persuaded her father to 
change his style of dress and buy clothes Uiat %vere 
suitable to a man of his station. This corjwral n'.stor- 
ation gave Balthazar a certain physical dignity which 
augured well for a change in his ideas ; and Marguerite, 
joyous in the thought of all the surprises that awaitttl 
her father when he entered his own house, started for 
Douai. 

Nine miles from the town Balthazar was met by 
F^licie on horseback, escorted by her two brothers, 
Emmanuel, Pierquin, and some of the nearest friends 
of the three families. The journey had necessarily di- 
verted the chemist's mind from its habitual thoughts ; 
the aspect of his own Flanders acted on his heart ; when, 
therefore, he saw the joyous company of his family and 
friends gathering about him his emotion was so keen 
that the tears came to his eyes, his voice trembled, his 



280 The Alkahest. 

eyelids reddened, and he held his children in so passion- 
ate an embrace, seeming unable to release them, that 
the spectators of the scene were moved to tears. 

When at last he saw the House of Claes he turned 
pale, and sprang from the carriage with the agility of a 
young man ; he breathed the air of the court-yard with 
delight, and looked about him at the smallest details 
with a pleasure that could express itself only in ges- 
tures : he drew himself erect, and his whole countenance 
renewed its youth. The tears came into his eyes 
when he entered the parlor and noticed the care with 
which his daughter had replaced the old silver cande- 
labra that he formerly had sold, — a visible sign that 
all the other disasters had been repaired. Breakfast 
was served in the dining-room, whose sideboards and 
shelves were covered with curios and silver-ware not 
less valuable than the treasures that formerly stood 
there. Though the family meal lasted a long time, it 
was still too short for the narratives which Balthazar 
exacted from each of his children. The reaction of his 
moral being caused b}^ this return to his home wedded 
him once more to family happiness, and he was again 
a father. His manners recovered their former dignity. 
At first the delight of recovering possession kept him 
from dwelling on the means by which the recover}' had 
been brought about. His joy therefore was fuU and 
unalloyed. 



The Alkahest. 281 

Breakfast over, the four children, the father and Pier- 
quin went into the parlor, where BalUiazar saw with 
some uneasiness a number of legal papers which the 
notarj-'s clerk had laid upon a table, by which he was 
standing as if to assist his chief. The children all sal 
down, and Balthazar, astonished, remained standing 
before the fireplace. 

" This," said Pierquin, " is the giianlianship account 
which Monsieur Claes renders to his childnn. It i» 
not ver}' amusing," he added, laughing aOer the man- 
ner of notaries who generally assume a lively tone in 
speaking of serious matters, " but I must really oblige 
you to listen to it." 

Though the phrase was natural enough under the cir- 
cumstances, Monsieur Claes, whose conscience recalled 
his past life, felt it to be a reproach, and his brow 
clouded. 

The clerk began the reading. Balthazar's amazement 
increased as little b}' little the statement unfolded the 
facts. In the first place, the fortune of his wife at the 
time of her decease was declared to have been sixteen 
hundred thousand francs or thereabouts ; and the sum- 
ming up of the account showed clearly that the portion 
of each child was intact and as well-invested as if the 
best and wisest father had controlled it. In consequence 
of this the House of Claes was free from all lien, Bal- 
thazar was master of it ; moreover, his rural property 



282 The Alkahest. 

was likewise released from incumbrance. When all 
the papers connected with these matters were signed, 
Pierquin presented the receipts for the repayment of 
the moneys former^ borrowed, and releases of the vari- 
ous liens on the estates. 

Balthazar, conscious that he had recovered the honor 
of his manhood, the life of a father, the dignity of a 
citizen, fell into a chair, and looked about for Margue- 
rite ; but she, with the instinctive delicacy of her sex, 
had left the room during the reading of the papers, as if 
to see that all the arrangements for the fete were prop- 
erly prepared. Each member of the family understood 
the old man's wish when the failing humid eyes sought 
for the daughter, — who was seen by all present, with the 
e3'es of the soul, as an angel of strength and light within 
the house. Gabriel went to find her. Hearing her step, 
Balthazar ran to clasp her in his arms. 

" Father," she said, at the foot of the stairs, where 
the old man caught her and strained her to his breast, 
" I implore you not to lessen your sacred authority. 
Thank me before the famil}'^ for carrying out your 
wishes, and be the sole author of the good that has 
been done here." 

Balthazar lifted his eyes to heaven, then looked at 
his daughter, folded his arms, and said, after a pause, 
during which his face recovered an expression his child- 
ren had not seen upon it for ten long years, — 



The Alkaheat. 288 

"Pepita, wh}- are you not here to praise our child : " 

He strained Marguerite to him, unable to utter an- 
other word, and went back to the parlor. 

" Mj children," he said, with the nobility of demeanor 
that in former days had made him so imj^sing, " we 
all owe gratitude and thanks to my daughter Marguerite 
for the wisdom and courage with which she ha.s fulfill.d 
my intentions and carried out my plans, when I, too ab- 
sorbed by my labors, gave the reins of our domestic 
government into her hands." 

"Ah, now!" cried Pierquin, looking at the clock, 
"we must read the marriage contractus. But lliey arc 
not m}' affair, for the law forbids me to draw up such 
deeds between my relations and myself. Monsieur 
Raparlier is coming." 

The friends of the family, invited to the dinner given 
to celebrate Claes's return and the signing of the mar- 
riage contracts, now began to arrive ; and their ser- 
vants brought in the wedding-presents. The company 
quickly assembled, and the scene was imposing as 
much from the quality of the persons present as from 
the elegance of the toilettes. The three families, thus 
united through the happiness of their children, seemed 
to vie with each other in contributing to the splendor 
of the occasion. The parlor was soon filled with the 
charming gifts that are made to bridal couples. (\oV\ 
shimmered and glistened; silks and satins, ca-shmero 



284 The AlJcahest. 

shawls, necklaces, jewels, afforded as much delight to 
those who gave as to those who received ; enjoyment 
that was almost childlike shone on every face, and the 
mere value of the magnificent presents was lost sight 
of by the spectators, — who often busy themselves in 
estimating it out of curiosit3\ 

The ceremonial forms used for generations in the 
Claes family for solemnities of this nature now began. 
The parents alone were seated, all present stood be- 
fore them at a little distance. To the left of the par- 
lor on the garden side were Gabriel and Mademoiselle 
Cony neks, next to them stood Monsieur de Solis and 
Marguerite, and farther on, Felicie and Pierquin. Bal- 
thazar and Monsieur Conyncks, the only persons who 
were seated, occupied two armchairs beside the notary 
who, for this occasion, had taken Pierquin's dutj'. Jean 
stood behind his father. A score of ladies elegantly 
dressed, and a few men chosen from among the nearest 
relatives of the Pierquins, the Conyncks, and the Claes, 
the mayor of Douai, who was to marr}' the couples, 
the twelve witnesses chosen from among the nearest 
friends of the three families, all, even the curate of 
Saint-PieiTC, remained standing and formed an impos- 
ing circle at the end of the parlor next the court-yard. 
This homage paid by the whole assembly to Paternit}', 
which at such a moment shines with almost regal ma- 
jesty, gave to the scene a certain antique character. It 



The Alkahest. 285 

was the only moment for sixteen long ycare when Bal- 
thazar forgot the Alkahest. 

Monsieur Raparlier went up to Marguerite and her 
sister and asked if all the persons in\nted to Uie cx^n?- 
mony and to the dinner had arrived ; on receiving an 
affirmative reply, he returned to his station and took 
up the marriage contract between Marguerite ami Mon- 
sieur de Solis, which was the first to be read, when sud- 
denly the door of the parlor opened aud Lcmulquiuier 
entered, his face flaming. 

" Monsieur ! monsieur ! " he cried. 

Balthazar flung a look of despair at Marguerite, then, 
making her a sign, he drew her into the ganlcn. The 
whole assembly were conscious of a shock. 

"I dared not tell you, my child," said the father. 
" but since you have done so much, you will save nie, I 
know, from this last trouble. Lemulquinier lent me all 
his savings — the fruit of twenty years' economy — for 
m}' last experiment, which failed. He has come, no 
doubt, finding that I am once more rich, to insist on 
having them back. Ah ! my angel, give them to him ; 
vou owe him your father ; he alone consoled me in n)v 
troubles, he alone has had faith in me, without iiim I 
should have died." 

"Monsieur! monsieur!" cried Lemulquinier. 

"What is it?" said Balthazar, turning round. 

" A diamond ! " 



286 The Alkahest. 

Claes sprang into the parlor and saw the stone in the 
hands of the old valet, who whispered in his ear, — 

" I have been to the laboratory." 

The chemist, forgetting everything about him, cast a 
terrible look on the old Fleming which meant, "You 
went before me to the laboratory ! " 

"Yes," continued Lemulquinier, "I found the dia- 
mond in the china capsule which communicated with 
the battery which we left to work, monsieur — and 
see ! " he added, showing a white diamond of octahe- 
dral form, whose brilliancy drew the astonished gaze of 
all present. 

" My children, my friends," said Balthazar, "forgive 
my old servant, forgive me ! This event wUl drive me 
mad. The chance work of seven years has produced — 
without me — a discovery I have sought for sixteen 
years. How? My God, I know not — yes, I left sul- 
phide of carbon under the influence of a Voltaic pile, 
whose action ought to have been watched from day to 
day. During m^- absence the power of God has worked 
in my laboratory, but I was not there to note its pro- 
gressive effects! Is it not awful? Oh, cursed exile! 
cursed chance ! Alas ! had I watched that slow, that 
sudden — what can I call it? — crystallization, trans- 
formation, in short that miracle, then, then my chil- 
dren would have been richer still. Though this result 
is not the solution of the Problem which I seek, the 



The Alkahest. ^'^T 

first rays of my glory would have shone from ihai dia- 
mond upon my native country, and this hour, which 
our satisfied affections have made so happy, would 
have glowed with the sunlight of Science." 

Every one kept silence in the presence of such a 
man. The disconnected words wrung from him by 
his anguish were too sincere not to be sublirur 

Suddenly, Balthazar drove back his despair inU) lUe 
depths of his own being, and cast uj)on the assembly a 
majestic look which affected the souls of all ; he took 
the diamond and oflered it to Marguerite, saving, — 

"It is thine, mv angel." 

Then he dismissed Lemulquinier with a gesture, an«l 
motioned to the notary, saying, " Go on." 

The two words sent a shudder of emotion through 
the company such as Talma in certain roles producctl 
among his auditors. Balthazar, as he reseated hinjsclf, 
said in a low voice, — 

" To-da}' I must be a father only." 

Marguerite hearing the words went up to him and 
caught his hand and kissed it respectfully. 

"No man was ever greater," said Emmanuel, »ii<ii 
his bride returned to him; "no man was «ver so 
mighty ; another would have gone mat!." 

After the three contracts were read and signiHl. the 
company hastened to question Balthazar as to the 
manner in which the diamond had been formetl ; but 



288 The Alkahest, 

he could tell them nothing about so strange an acci- 
dent. He looked through the window at his garret and 
pointed to it with an angry gesture. 

"Yes, the awful power resulting from a movement 
of fiery matter which no doubt produces metals, dia- 
monds," he said, " was manifested there for one mo- 
ment, by one chance." 

"That chance was of course some natural effect," 
whispered a guest belonging to the class of people who 
are ready with an explanation of everything. "At 
any rate, it is something saved out of all he has 
wasted." 

" Let us forget it," said Balthazar, addressing his 
friends ; " I beg you to say no more about it to-day." 

Marguerite took her father's arm to lead the way to 
the reception-rooms of the front house, where a sump- 
tuous fete had been prepared. As he entered the gal- 
lery, followed by his guests, he beheld it filled with 
pictures and garnished with choice flowers. 

" Pictures ! " he exclaimed, " pictures ! — and some 
of the old ones ! " 

He stopped short ; his brow clouded ; for a mo- 
ment grief overcame him ; he felt the weight of his 
wrong-doing as the vista of his humiliation came before 
his eyes. 

" It is all your own, father," said Marguerite, guess- 
ing the feelings that oppressed his soul. 



The Alkahest. 289 

"Angel, whom the spirits in heaven watch aud 
praise," he cried, "how many times have you given 
life to your father?" 

" Then keep no cloud upon your brow, nor the 1. 
sad thought in your heart," she said, '• and you w:U 
reward me beyond my hopes. I have be<>n thinking of 
Lemulquinier, my darling father; the few wonls you 
said a little while ago have made me value him ; jx-r- 
haps I have been unjust to him ; he ought to nmain 
your humble friend. Emmanuel has laid by nearly 
sixty thousand francs which he has economized, and wc 
will give them to Lemulquinier. After serving you »o 
well the man ought to be ma<le comfortable for hin 
remaining years. Do not be uneasy about us. Mon- 
sieur de Solis and I intend to lead a quiet, peaceful 
life, — a life without luxury ; we can well alfonl to 
lend you that money until you are able to return it." 

" Ah, my daughter ! never forsake mi*; continue to 
be thy father's providence." 

When they entered the reception-rooms Balthazar 
found them restored and furnished as elegantly tm in 
former da3's. The guests presently descended to the 
dining-room on the ground-floor by the grand staircaBc. 
on ever}' step of which were rare plants and llowiTing 
shrubs. A silver ser\ice of exquisite workmanship, 
the gift of Gabriel to his father, attracted all v\v» 
to a luxurj' which was surj^rising to the iuh.nliitants of 

19 



290 The Alkahest. 

a town where such luxuiy is traditional. The servants 
of Monsieur Con^^ncks and of Pierquin, as well as those 
of the Claes household, were assembled to serve the 
repast. Seeing himself once more at the head of that 
table, surrounded by friends and relatives and happy 
faces beaming with heartfelt jo}-, Balthazar, behind 
whose chair stood Lemulquinier, was overcome by emo- 
tions so deep and so imposing that all present kept 
silence, as men are silent before great sorrows or 
great joys. 

" Dear children," he cried, " you have killed the 
fatted calf to welcome home the prodigal father." 

These words, in which the father judged himself (and 
perhaps prevented others from judging him more se- 
verel}-), were spoken so nobly that all present shed 
tears ; they were the last exj^ression of sadness, how- 
ever, and the general happiness soon took on the merry, 
animated character of a family fete. 

Immediately after dinner the principal people of the 
city began to arrive for the ball, which proved worthy 
of the almost classic splendor of the restored House of 
Claes. The three marriages followed this happ}'' day, 
and gave occasion to many fetes, and balls, and din- 
ners, which involved Balthazar for some months in the 
vortex of social life. His eldest son and his wife re- 
moved to an estate near Cambrai belonging to Mon- 
sieur Conyncks, who was unwilUng to separate from his 



The Alkahe$t. 291 

daughter. Madame Pierquin also left her father's hou»o 
to do the honors of a fine mansion which Piertjuin hati 
built, and where he desired to live in all tlio di-jnity 
of rank ; for his practice was sold, and his uncle den 
Racquets had died and loft him a hin^e pro|H>rt_v scrajKnl 
together by slow economy. Jean went to Paris to finish 
his education, and Monsieur and Madame de Solis alone 
remained with their father in the I louse of Cliu-s. Hal- 
thazar made over to them the family home in Uie n»ar 
house, and took up his own alxxle on the second floor 
of the front building. 



•292 The Alkahest. 



XVI. 

Marguerite continued to keep watch over her father's 
material comfort, aided in the sweet task by Emman- 
uel. The noble girl received from the hands of love 
that most envied of all garlands, the wreath that happi- 
ness entwines and constancy keeps ever fresh. No 
couple ever afforded a better illustration of the com- 
plete, acknowledged, spotless felicity which all women 
cherish in their dreams. The union of two beings so 
courageous in the trials of life, who had loved each 
other through years with so sacred an affection, drew 
forth the respectful admiration of the whole community. 
Monsieur de Solis, who had long held an appointment 
as inspector-general of the University, resigned those 
functions to enjo}' his happiness more freely, and re- 
mained at Douai where every one did such homage to 
his character and attainments that his name was pro- 
posed as candidate for the Electoral college whenever 
he should reach the required age. Marguerite, who had 
shown herself so strong in adversity, became in pros- 
perity a sweet and tender woman. 

Throughout the following year Claes was gi'ave and 



The Alkahest. 

preoccupied ; and yet, though he made a few inexiH'n- 
sive experiments for which his onlinary incomo sulllctxl. 
he seemed to neglect his laboratory. Margiuriu* rf- 
stored all the old customs of the Houso of Clac-s. and 
gave a famUy lete every month in honor of her father, at 
which the Pierquins and the Conyncks were pn'stnt ; 
and she also received the upper ranks of socii-ty oui* 
day in the week at a " cafe " which became celebmUtJ. 
Though frequently absen^minded, Clacs took part in 
all these assemblages and became, to please his daugh- 
ter, so willingly a man of the world that tiie fumily 
were able to believe he had renounced his search for 
the solution of the great problem. 

Three years went by. In 1828 family affairs called 
Emmanuel de Soils to Spain. Although there were 
three numerous branches between him.self and the in- 
heritance of the house of Soils, yellow fever, old a^je, 
barrenness, and other caprices of fortune, combinetl to 
make him the last lineal descendant of tlie faujily and 
heir to the titles and estates of his ancient house. 
Moreover, b}' one of those curious chances which seem 
impossible except in a book, the house of Solis l»u«l 
acquired the territory and titles of the Comtes ile 
Nourho. Marguerite did not wish to separate from her 
husband, who was to stay in Spain long enough to Hctih- 
his affairs, and she was, moreover, curious to see Uio 
castle of Casa-Real where her mother had passed her 



294 The Alkahest. 

childhood, and the city of Granada, the cradle of the 
de Solis family. She left Douai, consigning the care 
of the house to Martha, Josette, and Lemulquinier. 
Balthazar, to whom Marguerite had proposed a journey 
into Spain, declined to accompany her on the ground 
of his advanced age ; but certain experiments which 
he had long meditated, and to which he now trusted 
for the realization of his hopes were the real reason of 
his refusal. 

The Comte and Comtesse de Solis y Nourho were 
detained in Spain longer than they intended. Mar- 
guerite gave birth to a son. It was not until the middle 
of 1830 that they reached Cadiz, intending to embark 
for Italy on their way back to France. There, how- 
ever, they received a letter from Fdlicie conve3'ing 
disastrous news. Within a few months, their father 
had completely ruined himself. Gabriel and Pierquin 
were obliged to pay Lemulquinier a monthly stipend 
for the bare necessaries of the household. The old 
valet had again sacrificed his little property to his mas- 
ter. Balthazar was no longer wiUing to see any one, 
and would not even admit his children to the house. 
Martha and Josette were dead. The coachman, the 
cook, and the other servants had long been dismissed ; 
the horses and carriages were sold. Though Lemul- 
quinier maintained the utmost secrecy as to his master's 
proceedings, it was believed that the thousand francs 



The Alkahest. 



- '. ) 



.■applied by Gabriel and Pierquin were ijK„i luuiIv 
on experiments. The small amount of provUions which 
the old valet purchased in the town socmetl to show 
that the two old men contenteil themselves with the 
barest necessaries. To prevent the sale of the House 
of Claes, Gabriel and Pierquin were paying ihf iutcriht 
of the sums which their father had jigain Iwrrowed on it. 
None of his children had the slightest intlnenee u|)od 
the old man, who at seventy years of age displavoil ox- 
traordinary energy in bending everything to his will, 
even in matters tliat were trivial. Gabriel, Convncks. 
and Pierquin had decided not to pay off his debtu. 

This letter changed all Marguerit<?'s travelling plans, 
and she immediately took the shortest road to I)ou.Hi. 
Her new fortune and her past savings enableil her to 
pay off Balthazar's debts ; but she wisheil to do more, 
she wished to obey her mother's last injunction and 
save him from sinking dishonored to the grave. She 
alone could exercise enough ascendency over the old 
man to keep him from completing the work of ruin, at 
an age when no fruitful toil could be expectetl from his 
enfeebled faculties. But she was also anxious U) con- 
trol him without wounding his susceptibilities. — not 
wishing to imitate the children of Sophoc-les, in ease her 
father neared the scientific result for wfiich ho htul 
sacrificed so much. 

Monsieur and Madame de SoUs reached FlundurH in 



296 The Alkahest. 

the last days of September, 1831, and arrived at Doua! 
during the morning. Marguerite ordered the coachman 
to drive to the house in the rue de Paris, which they 
found closed. The bell was loudly rung, but no one 
answered. A shopkeeper left his door-step, to which 
he had been attracted by the noise of the carriages ; 
others were at their windows to enjoy a sight of the re- 
turn of the de Solis family to whom all were attached, 
enticed also by a vague curiosity as to what would 
happen in that house on Marguerite's return to it. The 
shopkeeper told Monsieur de Solis's valet that old 
Claes had gone out an hour before, and that Monsieur 
Lemulquinier was no doubt taking him to walk on the 
ramparts. 

Marguerite sent for a locksmith to force the door, — • 
glad to escape a scene in case her father, as Felicie had 
written, should refuse to admit her into the house. 
Meantime Emmanuel went to meet the old man and 
prepare him for the arrival of his daughter, despatching 
a servant to notify Monsieur and Madame Pierquin. 

When the door was opened. Marguerite went di- 
rectly to the parlor. Horror overcame her and she 
trembled when she saw the walls as bare as if a fire had 
swept over them. The glorious carved panellings of 
Van Huj^sum and the portrait of the great Claes had been 
sold. The dining-room was empty : there was nothing 
in it but two straw chairs and a common deal table, on 



The Alkahett. L 7 

which Marguerite, terrified, saw two plates, iwo L>owU, 
two forks and spoons, and the remains of a salt honing 
which Claes and his servant had evidently just caton. 
In a moment she had flown through her father's portion 
of the house, every room of which exlxibiu-d the wiino 
desolation as the parlor and dining-room. The idea of 
the Alkahest had swept like a conflagration tlirougli Ihc 
building. Her father's bedroom had a IxhI, one chair, 
and one table, on which stood a miserable jx'wtor c-an- 
dlestick with a tallow candle burned almost to ibc 
socket. The house was so complotA'ly stripiKHl that 
not so much as a curtain remained at the windows. 
Every object of the smallest value, — everything, even 
the kitchen utensils, had been sold. 

Moved by that feeling of curiosity which nevt-r on- 
tireh' leaves us even in moments of misfortuni", Mar- 
guerite entered Lemulquinier's chamber and found it as 
bare as that of his master. In a half opeiu'd table- 
drawer she saw a pawnbroker's ticket for the oUl sit- 
vant's watch which he had pledged some days bofon». 
She ran to the laboratory and found it filled with stien- 
tific instruments, the same as ever. Then she n-turnwi 
to her own appartement and ordered the door («. In- 
broken open — her father had respected it ! 

Marguerite burst into tears and forgave her falluT all. 
In the midst of his devastating fury he had htop|>ed 
short, restrained by paternal feeling and the jfraiitudo 



298 The Alkahest. 

he owed to his daughter ! This proof of tenderness, 
coming to her at a moment when despair had reached 
its climax, brought about in Marguerite's soul one of 
those moral reactions against which the coldest hearts 
are powerless. She returned to the parlor to wait her 
father's arrival, in a state of anxiety that was cruelly 
aggravated by doubt and uncertainty. In what condi- 
tion was she about to see him? Ruined, decrepit, suf- 
fering, enfeebled by the fasts his pride compelled him 
to undergo ? Would he have his reason ? Tears flowed 
unconsciousl}' from her ej'es as she looked about the 
desecrated sanctuar}'. The images of her whole life, 
her past eflTorts, her useless precautions, her childhood, 
her mother happy and unhappy, — all, even her little 
Joseph smiling on that scene of desolation, all were 
parts of a poem of unutterable melancholy. 

Marguerite foresaw an approaching misfortune, yet 
she little expected the catastrophe which was about to 
close her father's life, — that life at once so grand and 
yet so miserable. 

The condition of Monsieur Claes was no secret in the 
community. To the lasting shame of men, there were 
not in all Douai two hearts generous enough to do 
honor to the perseverance of this man of genius. In 
the eyes of the world Balthazar was a man to be con- 
demned, a bad father who had squandered six fortunes, 
millions, who was actually seeking the philosopher's 



The Alkahest. 290 

stone in the nineteenth centun-, this onlighioncil tvn- 
tui y, this sceptical couturv, this century ! — etc. They 
calumniated his purposes and brandcil him wiUi the 
name of " alchemist," casting up to him in i- 
that he was trying to make gold. Ah ! what . 
are uttered on this great century of ours, in whua. a* 
in all the others, genius is smothered under an indiffer- 
ence as brutal as that of the age in which Dante died. 
and Tasso and Ccnantes and tutd quanti. The people 
are as backward as kings in understanding Uie creations 
of genius. 

These opinions on the subject of bulUiay.ar Cl.u.s 
filtered, little by little, from the upiK?r society of I)«>uai 
to the bourgeoisie, and from the bourgeoisie to the lower 
classes. The old chemist excited pity among |>enu>nft 
of his own rank, satirical curiosity among Uie otlicre, 
— two sentiments big with contempt and with the ra« 
victis with which the masses assail a niaii of genius 
when they see him in misfortune. Persons often stopjHHl 
before the House of Claes to show each other the rose 
window of the garret where so much gold and so mucli 
coal had been consumed in smoke. When r.altha/ar 
passed along the streets they pointed to him with their 
fingers ; often, on catching sight of him, a mocking jetit 
or a word of pity would escape the lips of a working- 
man or some mere child. But Lemulquinier was care- 
ful to tell his master it was homage ; he could di-fi-iv© 



300 The Alkahest. 

him with impunity, for though the old man's eyes re- 
gained the sublime clearness which results from the 
habit of living among great thoughts, his sense of 
hearing was enfeebled. 

To most of the peasantry, and to all vulgar and su- 
perstitious minds, Balthazar Claes was a sorcerer. The 
noble old mansion, once named by common consent " the 
House of Claes," was now called in the suburbs and the 
country districts " the Devil's House." Every outward 
sign, even the face of Lemulquinier, confirmed the 
ridiculous beliefs that were current about Balthazar. 
When the old servant went to market to purchase the 
few provisions necessary for their subsistence, picking 
out the cheapest he could find, insults were flung in as 
make-weights, — just as butchers slip bones into their 
customers' meat, — and he was fortunate, poor creature, 
if some superstitious market-woman did not refuse to 
sell him his meagre pittance lest she be damned by con- 
tact with an imp of hell. 

Thus the feelings of the whole town of Douai were 
hostile to the grand old man and to his attendant. The 
neglected state of their clothes added to this repulsion ; 
they went about clothed like paupers who have seen 
better daj's, and who strive to keep a decent appearance 
and are ashamed to beg. It was probable that sooner 
or later Balthazar would be insulted in the streets. 
Pierquin, feeling how degrading to the family any pub- 



The Alkahe$t. 301 

lie insult would be, had for some time past stiu two or 
three of his own servants to follow the old man when- 
ever he went out, and keep him in sight at a Utile iii»- 

tance, for the purpose of protecting him if uecc8«ar>-, 

the revolution of July not having contributed to make 
the citizens respectful. 

B}' one of those fatalities which can ucvlt be ex- 
plained, Claes and Lemulquinier haii gone out earlv in 
the morning, thus evading the secret guardian»hi|) of 
Monsieur and Madame Pierquin. On their way back 
from the ramparts they sat down to sun themselves on a 
bench in the place Saint-Jacques, an ojx?n space crossiii 
by children on their way to school. Catching sight 
from a distance of the defenceless old men, whose facc« 
brightened as they sat basking in the sun, a crowil of 
boys began to talk of them. Generall}*, children's ( hat^ 
ter ends in laughter ; on this occasion the laughter Iwi to 
jokes of which they did not know the cruelty. Seven 
or eight of the first-comers stood at a little distance, 
and examined the strange old faces with smotln'red 
laughter and remarks which attracted Lemulquiuier's 
attention. 

" Hi ! do you see that one with a head as smooth aa 
my knee ? " 

"Yes." 

" Well, he was bom a Wise Man." 

" My papa says he makes gold," said another. 



302 The Alkahest. 

The youngest of tlie troop, who had his basket full 
of provisions and was devouring a slice of bread and 
butter, advanced to the bench and said boldly to 
Lemulquinier, — 

" Monsieur, is it true you make pearls and diamonds ?" 

" Yes, my little man," replied the valet, smiling and 
tapping him on the cheek ; "we will give 3'ou some if 
you study well." 

" Ah! monsieur, give me some, too," was the gen- 
eral exclamation. 

The boys all rushed together like a flock of birds, and 
surrounded the old men. Balthazar, absorbed in medi- 
tation from which he was drawn by these sudden cries, 
made a gesture of amazement which caused a general 
shout of laughter. 

" Come, come, boys ; be respectful to a great man,'* 
said Lemulquinier. 

" Hi, the old harlequin ! " cried the lads ; " the old 
sorcerer ! 3'ou are sorcerers ! sorcerers ! sorcerers ! " 

Lemulquinier sprang to his feet and threatened the 
crowd with his cane ; they all ran to a little distance, 
picking up stones and mud. A workman who was eat- 
ing his breakfast near by, seeing Lemulquinier brandish 
his cane to drive the boys away, thought he had struck 
them, and took their part, crj'ing out, — 

' ' Down with the sorcerers ! " 

The boj's, feeling themselves encouraged, flung theii 



The Alkahest. 303 

missiles at the old men, just as the Comie de ^\i», 
accompanied by Pierquin's sen-aiita, apjH'ared at iho 
farther end of the square. The latU-r were too Ule, 
however, to save the old mau aud his valet frum being 
pelted with mud. The shock was given. iJalUjazar, 
whose faculties had been preserved bv a cliaiiity of 
spirit natural to students absorbed in a quest of dis- 
covery that annihilates all passions, now suddenly «li- 
vined, by the phenomenon of introsusception, the true 
meaning of the scene: his decrepit Ixnly could not 
sustain the frightful reaction he underwent in liia feel- 
ings, and he fell, struck with paralysis, into the ami* 
of Lemulquinier, who brought him to his home on a 
shutter, attended by his sons-in-law and their siT^anla. 
No power could prevent the population of Douai from 
following the body of the old man to the door of his 
house, where Felicie and her children, Jean, Marguerite, 
and Gabriel, whom his sister had sent for, were waiting 
to receive him. 

The arrival of the old man gave rise to a frightful 
scene ; he struggled less against the assaults of dtath 
than against the horror of seeing that his children had 
entered the house and penetrated the secret of his im- 
poverished life. A bed was at once made up in the 
parlor and every care bestowed ui)on the stricken man, 
whose condition, towards evening, allowed hoju's that 
his life might be preserved. The paralysis, though 



304 The Alkahest. 

skilfully treated, kept him for some time in a state of 
semi-childhood ; and when by degrees it relaxed, the 
tongue was found to be especially affected, perhaps 
because the old man's anger had concentrated all his 
forces upon it at the moment when he was about to 
apostrophize the children. 

This incident roused a general indignation throughout 
the town. By a law, up to that time unknown, which 
guides the affections of the masses, this event brought 
back all hearts to Monsieur Claes. He became once 
more a great man ; he excited the admiration and re- 
ceived the good-will that a few hours earlier were denied 
to him. Men praised his patience, his strength of will, 
his courage, his genius. The authorities wished to ar- 
rest all those who had a share in dealing him this blow. 
Too late, — the evil was done ! The Claes family were 
the first to beg that the matter might be allowed to 
drop. 

Marguerite ordered furniture to be brought into the 
parlor, and the denuded walls to be hung with silk ; and 
when, a few daj-s after his seizure, the old father re- 
covered his faculties and found himself once more in a 
luxurious room surrounded by all that makes life easy, 
he tried to express his belief that his daughter Mar- 
guerite had returned. At that moment she entered the 
room. "When Balthazar caught sight of her he colored, 
and his eyes grew moist, though the tears did not falL 



The Alkahtit. 805 

He was able to press his daughu-r's hand wiiii hi* txiUi 
fingers, putting into that pressure all the tboughtii, all 
the feelings he no longer had the power to utter. Then 
was something holy and solemn in that farewell of the 
brain which still lived, of the heart which j;nititu<te 
revived. Worn out by fruitless efforts, exhausied in 
the long struggle with the gigantic probleuj. dcsjicr- 
ate perhaps at the oblivion which awailtnl hia memory, 
this giant among men was about to die. His children 
suiTOunded him with respectful affection ; his dying 
eyes were cheered with images of plenty and U»o 
touching picture of his prosperous and noble family. 
His every look — by which alone he could manifest bis 
feelings — was unchangeably affectionate ; his eyca ac- 
quired such variety of expression that they had, as it 
were, a language of light, easy to comprehend. 

Marguerite paid her father's debts, and restonnj a 
modern splendor to the House of Clai-s which rem«jvttl 
all outward signs of its decay. She never left the old 
man's bedside, endeavoring to divine his every thought 
and accomplish his slightest wish. 

Some months went by with those alternations of 
better and worse which attend the struggle of life and 
death in old people ; every morning his children came 
to him and spent the day in the parlor, dining by biH 
bedside and only leaving him when he went to Hlo<-p 
for the night. The occupation which gave him moel 

20 



306 The Alkahest. 

pleasure, among the many with which his family sought 
to enliven him, was the reading of newspapers, to 
which the political events then occurring gave a special 
interest. Monsieur Claes listened attentively as Mon- 
sieur de SoUs read them aloud beside his bed. 

Towards the close of the year 1832, Balthazar passed 
an extremely critical night, during which Monsieui*^ 
Pierquin, the doctor, was summoned by the nurse, who 
was greatly alarmed at the sudden change which took 
place in the patient. For the rest of the night the 
doctor remained to watch him, fearing he might at any 
moment expire in the throes of inward convulsion, 
whose effects were like those of a last agony. 

The old man made incredible efforts to shake off the 
bonds of his paralysis ; he tried to speak and moved 
his tongue, unable to make a sound ; his flaming eyes, 
emitted thoughts ; his drawn features expressed an un- 
told agony ; his fingers writhed in desperation ; the 
sweat stood in drops upon his brow. In the morning 
when his children came to his bedside and kissed him 
with an affection which the sense of coming death made 
day by day more ardent and more eager, he showed 
none of his usual satisfaction at these signs of their ten- 
derness. Emmanuel, instigated by the doctor, hastened 
to open the newspaper to try if the usual reading might 
not relieve the inward crisis in which Balthazar was 
evidently struggUng. As he unfolded the sheet he saw 



The Alkdhegt. 807 

the words, " Discovery of tue ABsoLrrE," — which 
startled him, and he read a paragraph to ilargueriUs 
concerning a sale made by a celebrated Polish mathe- 
matician of the secret of the Absolute. Though Km- 
manuel read in a low voice, and ilargucrite siguetl to 
him to omit the passage, Balthazar heartl it. 

Suddenly the dying man raised himst-lf by hi.s wri«iii 
and cast on his frightenetl children a look which 8truck 
like lightning; the hairs that fringeil tlic bald hca«l 
stirred, the wrinkles quivered, the features were illu- 
mined with spiritual fires, a breath passed across that 
face and rendered it sublime ; he raised a hand, ck'nchctl 
in fur}', and uttered with a piercing ery the famous word 
of Archimedes, " Eureka ! " — I have found. 

He fell back upon his bed with the dull sound of an 
inert body, and died, uttering an awful moan, — his 
convulsed e^es expressing to the last, when the doctor 
closed them, the regret of not bequeathing to Science 
the secret of an Enigma whose veil was rent away, — 
too late ! — b}' the fleshless fingers of Death. 



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